BOGOTA – The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group killed Lt. Cesar Salamanca Saavedra in Catatumbo, a region on the border with Venezuela, the Colombian army said Thursday.
The army officer died when the ELN attacked soldiers on patrol in the city of Teorama, Rapid Deployment Force No. 3 said in a statement.
“These types of attacks are staged in retaliation for the successful military operations conducted in this area of the country, where the financial, logistical and terrorist capabilities of the criminal organizations that commit crimes in Norte de Santander province have suffered blows and been destabilized in recent months,” the army unit said.
Defense Minister Guillermo Botero said the army officer’s killing would not go unpunished.
“We reject the killing in Teorama, Norte de Santander, of army Lt. Cesar Salamanca Saavedra ... The officer was involved in searching an area when a sniper got him. This crime will not go unpunished,” Botero said in a Twitter post.
The Colombian Ombudsman’s Office also condemned the officer’s killing and expressed support for his family.
Catatumbo, a vast jungle region on the border with Venezuela, is one of the most unstable areas in Colombia due to the presence of different guerrilla groups, including the ELN and dissident factions of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as well as gangs and drug traffickers.
In February 2017, the government and the ELN started peace talks in Quito, and the negotiations shifted in May 2018 to Havana, where the last round of the dialogue concluded without tangible results on Aug. 3, 2018, four days before President Ivan Duque took office.
The negotiations have not gone anywhere since the ELN set off a car bomb on Jan. 17 outside a police academy in Bogota, killing 22 cadets and wounding 66 others.