Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian army kills ELN rebel accused of deadly ambush

Presidential guards carry the coffins of soldier, killed in an ambush by rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) on 29 October, 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Jose Daniel Perez ordered a deadly ambush in October, army officials said

The Colombian security forces say they have killed a senior rebel of the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN).

Jose Daniel Perez, also known as One-eyed Lucho, died in a clash between the rebels and the security forces in Santander province on Monday.

The army says he was behind a deadly ambush in which 11 soldiers and a police officer were killed in October.

The ELN and the government have been holding exploratory talks about starting peace negotiations.

The rebels maintained that October's ambush did "not contradict" their wish for peace.

But in its aftermath, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the security forces to step up their attacks on the ELN.

On Monday, he congratulated the security forces on their latest operation.

"Our military and police inflict a heavy blow against the ELN. They neutralised alias One-eyed Lucho and weakened the [rebels'] eastern front," he wrote on Twitter.

ELN

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some ELN members have demobilised, but an estimated 2,000 are still fighting
  • Founded in 1964 as a Marxist guerrilla group to fight Colombia's unequal distribution of land and riches
  • Estimated to have some 2,000 active fighters
  • Strongholds in the provinces of Arauca, Narino and Norte de Santander
  • Financed by extortion, drug trafficking and kidnappings for ransom

Army officials said Jose Daniel Perez was 42 years old and had been a member of Colombia's second largest guerrilla group for 25 years.

They said that he led the group of ELN rebels which ambushed members of the security forces escorting election officials in central Boyaca province on 26 October.

Aside from those killed, two more soldiers were kidnapped and held for three weeks before being released unharmed.

The ambush, one of the deadliest carried out by the ELN in recent years, shocked the country.

ELN rebels have urged the government to enter into peace talks with them along the lines of those the government is currently holding with Colombia's largest rebel group, Farc.

But President Santos has in the past said that the ELN first needs to demonstrate its will for peace before he is willing to consider entering into more formal peace talks.

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