Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia sends more troops to ELN rebel stronghold

Members of the Colombian National Liberation Army(ELN) near the border town of Cucuta, Dec 1999 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The ELN operates in Arauca, the province where a local politician was killed on Tuesday

The military in Colombia says it is sending more troops to the eastern province of Arauca, a rebel stronghold, to deal with a recent wave of attacks.

The announcement comes hours after gunmen shot dead a local politician, Pedro Antonio Bohorquez, and his bodyguard in the city of Saravena.

Earlier on Tuesday, eight soldiers were also injured by a homemade explosive device in a separate incident.

The area, which borders Venezuela, is a stronghold of left-wing ELN rebels.

With an estimated 2,500 members, the ELN is Colombia's second biggest rebel group.

It has been fighting the Colombian state for five decades.

On Tuesday, Colombia's police chief, Rodolfo Palomino, offered a reward for information on the attackers.

"Reward of up to 50 million [Colombian pesos; $26,600, £15,800) to those who help us arrest the criminals who brought terror to Saravena," Colonel Palomino tweeted after arriving in the city.

Attacks continue

Earlier, Colombia's ministry of defence announced it was boosting its troop presence there.

"The community of Saravena will not be left alone," it said on Twitter.

In the last two weeks, gunmen have killed nine people in Saravena, Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper reports.

Last week, a soldier died and at least six others fell ill after eating pork they had bought from a local person.

The military suspects the meat was laced with rat poison and that the person who sold it was a rebel.

And in June, 13 oil workers and their relatives were injured in a rebel attack on a camp in Arauca.

Last month, the Colombian armed forces said they had killed eight ELN rebels in the province.

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