BOGOTA – Colombian authorities say the data found on 15 computers, 94 USB devices and 14 hard disks at the camp of slain FARC military chief “Mono Jojoy” is many times more valuable and revelatory than that discovered after a 2008 cross-border airstrike into Ecuador that killed another top rebel commander.
That assessment appeared in an article published Saturday by Bogota daily El Tiempo, which added that the Dijin investigative police force’s forensic informatics division was charged with evaluating the computer data.
The analysis has concluded thus far that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group restricts its use of mobile phones and other electronic devices to the minimum for fear its communications will be intercepted.
Instead, they rely on couriers to carry USB memory sticks from one camp to another.
The investigators note, for example, that no cellular or satellite phones were found at the camp in south-central Colombia where Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, better known by the aliases Jorge Briceño or “Mono Jojoy,” was killed in an airstrike Wednesday along with a score of other guerrillas.
Among other things, the investigation has shown that the computers found at the camp were 2009 and 2010 models, one of which apparently was used exclusively by the FARC military leader.
That computer’s screen was damaged but the hard disk drive was practically intact and authorities were able to gain access to the data.
Authorities expect to find, in addition to e-mails, videos and recent plans for kidnappings and attacks on towns and security forces.
In March 2008, following a cross-border attack that killed Luis Edgar Devia, better known as Raul Reyes, in Ecuador, authorities recovered a computer and some USB devices of the FARC’s No. 2 and international spokesman.
But authorities believe the data from Mono Jojoy’s camp is more important because the military chief handled more of the rebels’ internal information, and that this blow to the FARC therefore leaves the group even more vulnerable than it was after Reyes’ death.
The FARC, which has fought a decades-old struggle against a succession of Colombian governments but has seen its numbers fall by more than half in recent years to roughly 8,000 fighters, had suffered a series of setbacks prior to the strike against Mono Jojoy.
The biggest before this week had come in July 2008, when the Colombian army – in an elaborate ruse – rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers being held hostage by the FARC.
That operation, which ruined the FARC’s plans to swap those “high-value” captives for jailed rebels, exposed the shabby state of the guerrillas’ communications network and the superior intelligence of Colombia’s U.S.-backed military.