TRAC INCIDENT REPORT: Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) VBIED (Car Bomb) Outside General Santander academy in southern Bogotá, Colombia - 17 January 2019

January 17, 2019 from TRAC INCIDENT REPORT
Submitted by Veryan Khan
Update 21 January 2019

As an update and TRAC's ongoing coverage of this issue, on 21 January 2019, ELN claimed credit. Authorities believe the bombing took 6 months to plan and established that the device was detonated remotely, most probably by cellphone.  It was also revealed that United States military personnel were inside the academy training Colombian cadets at the time of the explosion.  A man identified as Ricardo Andrés Carvajal Salgar has confessed to participating in the bombing.

ELN Claims Credit

“The Cadet Academy of the National Police is a military installation where officers receive training to carry out combat intelligence, operations, and participate actively in the counter-insurgency war,” reads the statement by the group’s central command.... the President didn’t give the necessary dimension to the gesture of peace that ELN offered over Christmas and the end of the year holidays, and answered by carrying-out military attacks against us, across the country. He also ordered the bombing on December 25 of one of our camps, launching more than 12 bombs with hundreds of explosives each, affecting a family of farmers close by... it is disproportionate to think that while the Government attacks us, we cannot respond with legitimate defense. We are prepared to agree upon that certain military installations are respected and certain areas, as well as the camps where ELN operates, for the advancement of the peace talks... the road of war is not the future of Colombia, it is peace, and therefore we remind the President to give continuity to the peace process by sending the negotiating team to the table, so that we can build upon accords reached with the previous government, and negotiate a political settlement to a conflict that has the support of the majority of Colombians and international community.”

TRAC Top Line

The attack does not resemble the bomb construction of the last bombing in Bogotá in June 2017 that remains unclaimed.  This bomb was much more sophisticated with 80 kilos of pentolite explosives.  Though no group has claimed the attack, authorities have linked the remains inside the vehicle to a notorious ELN bomb maker Macho Kiko.  Recent ELN attacks have been restricted to small IEDs on Caño Limón - Coveñas pipeline.  

The Incident

On the morning of 17 January 2019, a 1993 Nissan plowed through main gates of the General Santander academy, taking advantage of authorized motorcycles that were leaving at the time outside in southern Bogotá, Colombia.  The vehicle was packed with 80 kilos of pentolite explosives.  The remains of the body found in the vehicle were identified as José Aldemar Rojas, who police believe was secretly Mocho Kiko.  Kiko is the notorious one armed bomb maker for the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) who lost his arm making bombs with a ELN cell near the border with Venezuela.  The current casualty toll is at 21 dead and 70 wounded.