In less than 24 hours Colombian authorities established the National Liberation Army guerrilla, known by its Spanish acronym ELN to have orchestrated the car bomb that injured more than 68 people – including three children- and killed 21, Thursday, inside the police academy Escuela de Cadetes General Francisco de Paula Santander.
Testimonies by three eyewitnesses identified the bomber as José Ademar Rojas Rodríguez, alias “Mocho” or “Kico” who drove a 1993 Nissan Patrol at high speed through the main gates of the academy, taking advantage of authorized motorcycles that were leaving at the time.
Authorities have established that Rojas died in the blast and that the device was detonated remotely, most probably by cellphone. Investigators are still establishing where exactly the detonator was located and who set it off. However, they believe it is improbable that Rodríguez was a suicide bomber.
Rodríguez was a militant of Domingo Lain faction of the ELN for more than 33 years. At the time of his death, he was part of the urban militia cells of ELN. An explosive expert within the terrorist group, he had lost his right hand and his body was identified after fingerprint examination of his left hand recovered from the site. So far, only 13 of 21 victims have been identified with DNA testing.
United States military personnel were inside the academy training Colombian cadets in counter-terrorism at the time of the explosion and offered their expertise with triangulating communications that led to the arrest of a first suspect.
A coordinated effort between agents of the Fiscalia General de la Nación and National Police resulted in the arrest early Friday morning of Ricardo Andrés Carvajal Salgar who confessed to participating in the bombing. The General Attorney’s Office will press charges against Carvajal Salgar for aggravated homicide, rebellion, and terrorism, Friday, in Bogotá. He was captured along with a beginner’s Combat Manual of the ELN, uniforms, and cellphone.
The commanders of ELN’s Central Command – COCE – have officially been charged with terrorism. The 3,000 strong ELN guerrilla is Colombia’s last remaining Marxist guerrilla after the 12,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace accord in 2016, disarmed and demobilized a year later.
ELN’s Eastern Front coordinated Thursday’s bombing claim authorities and have discarded any involvement of Venezuelan government, but, according to Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez, have evidence to prove that militants operate in that country.
Known for attacks against civilians, kidnappings, blowing up the state’s energy infrastructure and recruitment of minors, the bloody attack against cadets has extinguished any chance of peace talks between the Colombian government and ELN.
President Iván Duque is expected to announce the end of peace negotiations with ELN on Friday afternoon in an address to the nation.
Formal talks between the former government of Juan Manuel Santos and ELN began in Quito, Ecuador, in June 2017, but were suspended in September 2018 when newly-elected President Iván Duque recalled his chief negotiator after the Marxist guerrilla refused to end involvement in the kidnapping and liberate 16 confirmed hostage – including two minors.
Last November, the country’s Foreign Ministry asked the Cuban government to capture commander Nicolas Rodríguez, known by his nom de guerre “Gabino,” after a Red Alert was issued by Interpol.
During a press conference at the Presidential Palace on Friday, Colombia’s High Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos said ELN has not made any demonstration of its desire for peace despite the government’s repeated calls to end kidnapping and attacks against the state. Since August 2018, ELN has kidnapped nine civilians and detonated 33 times the Caño Limón-Coveñas pipeline.
“In the face of terrorism we are not going to give in and we are not going to negotiate. There is evidence of a lack of will to reach peace,” said Ceballos. The peace representative also mentioned that Thursday’s car bomb was planned more than six months ago and known to ELN’s high command.
ELN has not made a statement regarding the Bogotá bombing.
This was the route taken by the bomber on the morning of the attack captured on CCTV cameras.