Commander Uriel, one of the main guerrilla leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), was killed during a military operation in northwestern Colombia, President Ivan Duque announced on Sunday (October 25). .
"It is a particularly important blow
(dealt to the ELN)
because one of the most visible figures of this terrorist organization has fallen"
, declared the president in a speech given in the department of Choco, in the north. west of the country, where the operation took place.
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The death of Andres Vanegas, alias Commander Uriel, 41, is the biggest blow to the last active guerrilla war in Colombia during the tenure of President Duque, in power since 2018. According to the head of state, Uriel was responsible for kidnappings, murders and recruitment of minors for his guerrillas.
He is also accused of having been one of the organizers of the car bomb attack in January 2019 against a cadet school in Bogota, which killed 22 people, in addition to the assailant.
After this attack, President Duque put an end to the peace talks started with the ELN by his predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos.
For his part, the Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, said that the death of Commander Uriel had occurred during a
with the police in the jungle commune of Novita, during a military operation called Odin. .
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Very active on social networks, Uriel was one of the most media figures of the generational change within the ELN, an organization born in 1964 and led by guerrillas aged on average over 60 years.
The region of Choco, where Commander Uriel operated, is the scene of a territorial conflict between the ELN and the Clan del Golfo, the largest drug trafficking gang in the country, formed from far-right paramilitaries demobilized in 2006. It is also one of the strategic exit points for cocaine exports to Central America and the United States.
It is also a territory of illegal gold extraction, whose income, according to the prosecution, exceeds that of drug trafficking.
The last active guerrilla war in the country after the peace agreement that led to the disarmament of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the ELN has some 2,300 combatants and a vast urban support network.
ELN operates in 12% of Colombia's 1,100 municipalities, according to independent surveys, and Colombian authorities say it is also present in Venezuela.