PEREIRA, Colombia – Colombian authorities arrested Thursday a member of the ELN guerrilla group suspected of organizing a Jan. 27 attack on police in Barranquilla that left six officers dead and 40 wounded.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced the arrest of Rafael Antonio Botero Restrepo during his closing statement at the VI Colombia-Ecuador Binational Cabinet meeting in the western city of Pereira.
The president said that besides the Barranquilla assault, Botero is also accused of forcibly recruited minors into the ELN ranks and of a role in a Feb. 22, 2017, bombing near the Bogota bullring that claimed the life of one police officer and wounded 24 others.
“This individual was captured today in an intelligence operation carried out by the army and the Attorney General’s Office,” Santos said.
On Wednesday, a court issued arrest warrants for eight leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), including Botero, for the alleged forced recruitment of 97 minors in 12 different provinces.
The arrest warrants also include the entire ELN high command.
The ELN declared a four-day “armed strike” (an action aimed at shutting down travel and transport) beginning last weekend to protest the Colombian government’s decision to suspend peace talks.
Santos’ administration late last month suspended those negotiations, which began in early 2017, after a surge in attacks by the rebel group.