BOGOTA – The army has found 1,961 landmines this year that were planted by FARC guerrillas in Putumayo, a jungle province on Colombia’s southern border with Ecuador and Peru, military spokesmen said.
The army’s offensive against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the area has prompted the guerrilla group to plant landmines indiscriminately in Putumayo, the army commander in the province, Gen. Jose Guillermo Delvasto, said in a statement.
“This difficult to fight enemy ... does not sleep, does not move, does not cease to matter, has no expiration date and does not require the orders of guerrillas or commanders to take action,” the general, who commands the 27th Brigade, said, referring to landmines.
Landmines are planted by the FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, in an effort to slow down the army and allow rebel fighters to escape sweeps launched by soldiers, Delvasto said.
Troops from the 27th Brigade have also seized 3,882 kilos of explosives in Putumayo this year, the general said.
The explosives could have been used to “prepare and plant more than 10,000 explosive devices,” Delvasto said.
The FARC considers Putumayo important because the province’s dense jungles provide cover for guerrilla operations and drug labs, the general said.
The FARC’s 48th Front operates in the province, Delvasto said.
Landmines have been planted in 31 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, the United Nations says.
Up to 100,000 of the weapons are estimated to have been planted around the Andean nation, the great majority of them by leftist rebels seeking to inflict casualties on soldiers and protect coca plantations that supply their extensive drug trafficking operations.
Almost all of the weapons are “non-industrial” homemade mines manufactured in guerrilla camps at low cost.
The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC’s main means of financing its operations.