BOGOTA – Army troops found a huge arsenal, including more than three tons of explosives, at a FARC guerrilla camp in the jungles of Caqueta, a province in southern Colombia, the Caguan Command said.
The explosives, arms and ammunition were discovered at a camp abandoned by suspected members of the Southern Bloc of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group in a rural area outside Cartagena del Chaira.
The camp, which was on the banks of the Yari River, had the capacity to house about 100 guerrillas, the command said.
Soldiers found the camp “thanks to intelligence” from FARC fighters who laid down their arms, Caguan Command chief Col. Wilson Diaz said.
Soldiers found 24 surface-to-air missiles, 531 grenades, detonating cord, assault rifles, a .50-caliber machine gun, a Remington shotgun, a Winchester shotgun, landmines and ammunition at the camp.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation.
The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
The FARC has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years at the hands of the Colombian security forces.
Alfonso Cano, the FARC’s top leader, was killed on Nov. 4 in a military and police operation that the government hailed as the biggest blow to the FARC in its nearly 50-year history.
Cano, a 63-year-old intellectual who had entered the ranks of the FARC 30 years ago, was killed in in a remote area of the southwestern province of Cauca a few hours after fleeing a bombardment.
The FARC also suffered a series of blows in 2008, with the biggest coming in July of that year, when the Colombian army rescued a group of high-profile rebel-held captives: former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers.
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.