BOGOTA – Guerrilla fighter Walter Patricio Arizala, known as “Guacho,” leader of a dissident faction of the FARC rebel group, who is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Ecuadorian press workers in March, was injured on Saturday in a military operation in southwestern Colombia, President Ivan Duque said.
The operation was carried out by members of the Special Forces and the police near the city of Tumaco, in the department of Nariño, close to the border with Ecuador, where the Oliver Sinisterra Front, led by “Guacho,” is based.
“We have been informed that Guacho was injured this morning and that military forces and the police are cordoning off the area to find him,” Duque said during an event in the town of Filandia, in the central department of Quindio.
The president did not provide further details, though military sources cited in local media outlets said “Guacho” was injured in the back by a sniper shot.
“I hope we will have more information in the next few hours about the impeccable work carried out by our police and military forces,” the president said.
On March 26, the Oliver Sinisterra Front kidnapped three employees of Quito daily El Comercio – journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and driver Efrain Segarra – in the northern Ecuadorian border province of Esmeraldas, while they were investigating a surge of violence in the area.
Several weeks later, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno confirmed that the three press workers had been killed by the armed group.
On June 21, their bodies were found in a jungle area of Nariño after a nearly three-month search.
Guacho’s faction is also accused of kidnapping and murdering an Ecuadorian couple in the same area, whose bodies were found in a pit.
Duque recalled that since he was sworn in as president on Aug. 7, he has been “very clear” in his message regarding the need to “face criminality and drug trafficking with the utmost determination.”
In the last few months, Colombian authorities have arrested several members of Guacho’s faction, including some who were directly involved in the kidnapping of the three Ecuadorian press workers.