Colombia could restart bombing campaigns against armed groups

Bombings by Colombia’s air force helped drive the now-demobilized rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

By REUTERS
February 21, 2024
Minister of National Defence of Colombia Ivan Velasquez can be seen. — Wilson Center

BOGOTA: Colombia’s government could restart aerial bombing campaigns against illegal armed groups, as long as intelligence makes certain minors will not be affected, Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said on Tuesday.

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The government and human rights group accuse illegal armed groups of forcibly recruiting minors, including to try to discourage the bombing of their camps.

Bombings by Colombia’s air force helped drive the now-demobilized rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to sign a peace deal in 2016, and subsequently targeted leaders of other armed groups like the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Clan del Golfo.

President Gustavo Petro ordered the bombings suspended just days after taking power in August 2022 to avoid civilian deaths, including of forcibly recruited children, and in a nod to his policy of total peace to end the country’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 450,000 dead.There will be no restriction on bombing when “intelligence reliably confirms that there are no minors present,” Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez told journalists.

The government is holding peace talks with Estado Mayor Central and the Segunda Marquetalia, both dissident factions of the FARC who reject the 2016 peace deal, and with the ELN.

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