Overview: The National Liberation Army (ELN) has seen a resurgence and in some areas of Colombia is filling the void left by FARC ex-combatants who left the battlefield. Colombian authorities estimate there are around 3,000 active members of the ELN, 1,400 of whom the government claims are camped across the border in Venezuela. Colombian authorities state publicly there are 36 ELN camps strategically located on the Venezuela side of the Colombia-Venezuela border. As of December 2019, roughly 13,000 FARC ex-combatants (including former rank-and-file guerrillas and militia) continue to participate in the reintegration process based on the 2016 peace accord. Ongoing challenges to peace accord implementation and continued security vacuums have created risk for terrorist activity and attacks on civilians, security forces, and infrastructure in some areas in 2019. An estimated 2,600 FARC dissidents who never demobilized, left the peace process, or are new recruits, continued violent attacks, primarily to enable narcotics trafficking and other criminal activities, particularly in border regions and areas previously controlled by the former FARC.
Colombian-U.S. CT cooperation remains strong. Colombia has openly condemned ISIS and its objectives.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: In 2019, FARC dissidents and the ELN continued to commit crimes and acts of terror throughout the country – including bombings, violence against civilian populations, and violent attacks against military and police facilities.
- In January, an ELN terrorist detonated a car bomb inside Colombia’s national police academy in Bogota, killing 22 cadets and injuring 87.
- Through the end of December, IEDs suspected to have been placed by groups such as FARC dissidents, ELN members, and others have killed 10 and wounded 56 police officers, military members, and civilians participating in manual coca eradication operations.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no changes to terrorism-related legislation and investigation procedures in 2019.
Colombian border security remained an area of vulnerability as law enforcement officers continued to face the challenge of working in areas with porous borders, difficult topography, illegal armed groups, and drug trafficking.
The U.S. and Colombian governments signed the first of two arrangements to exchange terrorist screening data in December 2019, with an aim to detect and prevent terrorist travel in line with UNSCR 2396 obligations.
In August 2019, U.S. Department of Justice representatives at U.S. Embassy Bogota coordinated a U.S.-Colombia Bilateral ELN Case Development Coordination Conference. The conference brought together 60 U.S. law enforcement agents and prosecutors from across the United States and their Colombian counterparts to facilitate ELN case development in the United States by harmonizing evidence collection procedures with Colombian legal standards.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Colombia is a member of GAFILAT. Its FIU, the Unidad de Informacion y Analisis Financiero is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2019, roughly 13,000 FARC ex-combatants and former militia members who demobilized under the 2016 peace accord continued to participate in social and economic reincorporation activities. Colombia continued to employ a modern, multi-agency approach to CVE, with a focus on encouraging individual guerrillas (primarily the ELN) to demobilize. The number of members of armed groups who demobilized individually declined from 635 in 2018 to 414 in 2019. Of the 414 members, 161 were minors.
International and Regional Cooperation: Colombia is a founding member of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum and continues to lead in providing security training and assistance to other countries in the region. In 2019, Colombia proposed hosting the Third Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial in January 2020. Throughout 2019, Colombia laid the groundwork for declaring Hizballah a terrorist organization and commenced an interagency process to formalize prohibitions against support for Hizballah, as well as necessary legislation and regulations to implement the decision.