BOGOTA – Security forces members found and destroyed two makeshift refineries used by the FARC guerrilla group to process oil stolen from a pipeline in a rural area in Colombia’s southwestern Nariño province, on the border with Ecuador, officials said on Monday, adding that two suspects were arrested.
Police and army troops conducting a joint operation also discovered the location of the valves used to steal crude from the pipeline in a rural area near the city of Ricaurte, located some 700 kilometers (435 miles) southwest of Bogota.
The refineries belonged to the “Marshal Antonio Jose de Sucre column of the 29th front” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group, police said.
The illegal refining operation could produce some 40 liters (11 gallons) of fuel per hour.
The security forces seized more than 7,000 liters (1,849 gallons) of distilled gasoline and 11 steel drums that could hold one barrel each of crude oil.
A police explosives team blew up the facility after the operation was completed.
The guerrillas were stealing the oil from the 310-kilometer (193-mile) Transandino pipeline, which carries crude from Orito, in Putumayo province, on the border with Ecuador, to the Pacific port of Tumaco, in Nariño province, and has a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day.
Nearly two weeks ago, the army found a clandestine oil refinery in a rural area near Barbacoas, a city in Nariño, that operated with petroleum the FARC stole from the same pipeline.
During the April 16 operation, army 23rd Brigade troops found and destroyed the illegal valve that allowed the rebels to steal crude from the Transandino pipeline and seized nearly 44 barrels of petroleum.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 to 17,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation.
President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations. EFE