Colombia has dawned this Tuesday with the ghosts of the low intensity war that the country has lived through for half a century. Two policemen and a man apparently carrying a load of explosives died at dawn at the airport in Cúcuta, a Colombian city on the border with Venezuela. The sequence of events is still unclear, but the first hypotheses suggest that an attacker, who the Government has branded a terrorist, was carrying the explosives at the time of the detonation. The man died instantly. Two police officers who were experts in deactivating devices came to check what had happened and were hit by a new explosion.
“The terrorist attack with explosives at the Camilo Daza airport in Cúcuta claimed the lives of two heroes of our @PoliceColombia: William Bareño and David Reyes, when they deactivated a second charge in the vicinity of the runway. To their families all solidarity, “wrote President Iván Duque on Twitter, thus revealing the identity of the policemen. The agents had recently been decorated for carrying out demining tasks in Norte de Santander and the Catatumbo region, places where guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army have historically fought.
The loose ends are still many. At the time of the attack, a flight to Panama was about to take off. Homes around the airport have been affected by the detonations. The governor of the area, Silvano Guerrero, explained that two people accessed the terminal with explosives. In the flight, it is assumed that after the first explosion, they left behind the cargo, hidden in a suitcase, which was later found by the two policemen.
It is not the first attack recorded by Cúcuta this year. In June, a car bomb crashed into a military canton. 34 soldiers and two civilians were injured. Ten days later, in the midst of the country’s crisis due to the protests against the Government, the helicopter in which President Duque was traveling received a rifle burst. The event was always shrouded in mystery. The FARC dissidents, which did not join the peace process in 2016 and are still hidden in the mountains, subsisting on drug trafficking and other illegal activities, claimed responsibility for these attacks. For now they have not commented on this Tuesday.
Cúcuta is the capital of Norte de Santander, on the porous border of more than 2,200 kilometers with Venezuela. It is one of the departments hardest hit by the armed conflict that Colombia has been seeking to leave behind for more than four years, when it sealed the agreements with the FARC, now disarmed and turned into a political party. It is also the department with the most coca leaf crops in the country, concentrated in the Catatumbo region, where an archipelago of illegal armed groups still operate, including the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last active guerrilla. President Duque had the intention of negotiating with the ELN, but the armed group claimed responsibility for a car bomb against a school of police cadets in Bogotá that left 20 dead. That annihilated any possibility of dialogue.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.