BOGOTA – The head of the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional or ELN in Spanish) in Colombia’s western front was killed in a weekend military operation, President Ivan Duque announced on Sunday.
Duque said guerrilla leader Andres Vanegas Londońo, or Uriel, was killed following a joint operation involving various wings of Colombia’s armed forces.
“I want to inform the country […] that “Odin” operation was carried out (Sunday) during which terrorist Andres Felipe Vanegas Londońo, who used the alias of ‘Uriel,’ was killed,” Duque said in a statement in Quibdo, the capital of Choco.
Uriel was the head of the Western War Front of the ELN that operates in the west of the country and died during a military operation in the Chocoano municipality of Novita.
The head of state said the guerrilla was killed in a “meticulous” operation by the army, the police and the navy, which had the support of the air force and the attorney general’s office.
“In this operation a dangerous criminal fell, who was responsible for crimes such as kidnapping, murder of social leaders, persecution and harassment of people, murder of soldiers and police, and also for shaping and stimulating the recruitment of minors,” Duque said. “This is a very important blow because one of the most visible figures of that terrorist organization has fallen.”
Duque said Uriel was a “criminal who used social networks to apologize for crime.”
Uriel, who had been in the ELN for more than 25 years, said a month ago that this guerrilla participated in the violent demonstrations in Bogota against police brutality in which at least 13 people died on Sept. 9-10, when at least 75 police one-stop services were set on fire.
Uriel had achieved notoriety in the country for his appearances on social networks, in which he called himself the “editorial voice” of the Western War Front and commented on political issues and peace negotiations.
The Colombian president said Uriel was one of the ELN commanders who claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack against the Police Cadet School in Bogota, which in January of last year left 22 dead and 66 wounded.
The ELN and Uriel’s Twitter accounts and websites were suspended following the attack, platforms on which the leader used to post information about criminal actions and the organization’s propaganda.
“This bandit, this criminal felt untouchable but we reached his den,” Duque said about Uriel, who had a direct line with Pablo Beltran, a member of the ELN’s Central Command.
After the attack against the Santander General School, Uriel said guerrillas would continue with “this type of terrorist attack against other military or police facilities in the country,” the Defense Ministry reported on Sunday.
That attack was the breaking point of the incipient peace process between the government and the ELN, whose negotiations, which began in 2017, were suspended by Duque, who said the dialogue would continue only if the guerrilla gave up criminal activities.
In response to this condition, Uriel said the Western War Front would not renounce the income it receives from drug trafficking.