Colombia: who was “Uriel”, the commander who died in the greatest military coup in recent years against the ELN guerrillas

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He had been in the National Liberation Army for 25 years. He was killed in an attack on his camp, in the department of Chocó.

The death in a military operation of Andrés Vanegas Londoño, alias “Uriel”, head of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the jungle department of Chocó (west), Colombia, It is the greatest blow that guerrilla has suffered in recent years as “a high value target” for the goverment.

“Uriel” was the visible head of the Western War Front of the ELN and in the country he was known for his constant appearances on social networks in which he he called himself the “editorial voice” of that group, as he used to constantly express his opinion on political matters and peace negotiations.

The operation against the guerrilla chief – carried out on Sunday by the Army, the Police and the National Navy in the municipality of Nóvita (Chocó) with the support of the Air Force and the Attorney General’s Office- it happened in a camp where there were two minors which, according to Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo, are still in the power of the ELN.

“It was more than a year without rest that we ended it with a long infiltration through the Chocoan jungle, using various means and methods given the abrupt geography that we find on the Pacific coast, until reaching the camp where the bandit alias ‘Uriel’ was“said the commander of the Military Forces, General Luis Fernando Navarro, at a press conference today.

In May of last year, the guerrilla Alejandro Montoya, one of the ELN negotiators in the peace talks held in Ecuador, died along with four other guerrillas in a bombing that the Colombian authorities carried out in the Caribbean department of Bolívar.

However, Montoya did not have the importance of “Uriel” in the guerrillas and since then the government had not dealt this group with a coup of this magnitude.

In that sense, this is the most important operation that the Government of President Iván Duque has carried out against the ELN in the more than two years he has been in power.

Before this operation, the most important blow of the Colombian Armed Forces in the current Government was the death of Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho”, leader of a FARC dissidence, killed in December 2018 in the department of Nariño, on the border with Ecuador.

The group in charge of “Guacho” kidnapped and murdered a journalistic team from the Quito newspaper in 2018 Trade, composed by the editor Javier Ortega, the photographer Paúl Rivas and the host Efraín Segarra.

The same group is credited with the murder of Katty Velasco Pinargote and Oscar Villacís Gómez, an Ecuadorian couple kidnapped in 2018 when they were moving through a province on the border with Colombia.

The head of the Defense portfolio assured that the authorities they tracked “Uriel” since 2018 “when it was characterized as a high value target of national interest” because of “the danger it represents and to which President Duque has referred on different occasions.”

“The operation that allowed the neutralization of alias ‘Uriel’ has been sustained and a few months ago the intelligence of the public force learned of its possible location. It is important to make known that by the information that allowed the neutralization (…) the reward of 500 million pesos will be paid (about $ 131,000), “Trujillo added.

The minister explained that this operation is important because “Uriel” sought to “destabilize, delegitimize the institutionality through acts of violence. vandalism and terrorism, which he carried out using, in addition to weapons and lethal instruments, social networks as a media and propaganda platform. “

“Alias ​​’Uriel’ used the most painful, most heinous crimes, to propagandize without shame,” he added.

The guerrilla, who had been in that group for more than 25 years, acknowledged a month ago that the ELN participated in the violent demonstrations in Bogotá against police brutality in which at least 13 people died on September 9 and 10, days in which at least 75 Immediate Attention Centers (CAI) were set on fire from the police.

He was also one of the ELN commanders who claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack against the Police Cadet School in Bogotá, which in January of last year left 22 dead, including an Ecuadorian, and 66 wounded.

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