ELN rebels kill soldier in northwestern Colombia

    12 de febrero de 2018

    Bogota, Feb 12 (efe-epa).- National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas killed a soldier on Monday, the third day of an armed strike declared by the group, in Valdivia, a city in the northwestern Colombian province of Antioquia, officials said.

    "It looks like they were going to plant some devices on the El Pescado bridge, which would have cut us off. The soldiers realized what was going on and reacted, and, unfortunately, one of them was shot," Valdivia Mayor Jonas Dario Henao told reporters.

    Pvt. Jhon Jairo Delgado Bastidas, who was assigned to provide security in Antioquia, was killed in the incident, the army said.

    The 29-year-old private was a nine-year military veteran, the army said, adding that soldiers and ELN guerrillas were engaged in clashes around Valdivia.

    "Due to the armed strike declared by the ELN, all business in northern Antioquia has shut down," the mayor said.

    Antioquia Gov. Luis Perez Gutierrez criticized the ELN for claiming that "the armed strike was not going to affect people's lives."

    The guerrilla group uses threats of violence to keep people and cargo off roads in the area affected by an armed strike.

    On Saturday, the ELN set off explosives on a bridge and highway in the northern province of Cesar at the start of an armed strike aimed at pressuring the government into returning to the peace negotiations in Quito.

    Two suspected ELN members were killed on Sunday while planting explosives on the El Palermo bridge in Bochalema, a city in the northeastern province of Norte de Santander.

    On Jan. 29, President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the peace negotiations with the ELN in response to a series of attacks by the insurgent group that killed seven police officers.

    The bombings staged by the ELN killed five police officers and wounded 41 others in Barranquilla; wounded five officers in neighboring Soledad; and killed two officers and wounded two others in Buenavista, a village located outside the city of Santa Rosa, in Bolivar province.

    An ELN urban guerrilla unit claimed responsibility for the attack in Barranquilla.

    The peace negotiations between the government and ELN started in Quito, Ecuador, on Feb. 7, 2017.