Colombia Car Bombing Suspect Belonged to Rebel Group, Government Says
In 2015, as the FARC was nearing its peace deal with the government, Mr. Rojas had tried three times to pass himself off as a member of that group to receive demobilization benefits, but FARC members rejected him repeatedly, said Mr. Botero, the defense minister.
The FARC, which has given up arms and formed a political party, worked to distance itself from the attack this week.
“We express our solidarity with the victims and their families,” the party wrote in a statement after the attack. “And we call on all sectors of the country to keep building a pact that takes violence and weapons out of doing politics.”
But the ELN has taken a different stance from their former guerrilla brethren.
Last January, a faction of the group claimed responsibility for an attack that killed five police officers and wounded 40 others in a Colombian port city. During the summer, they tried to coax the government into negotiations by offering nine hostages for ransom. The kidnappings continued even this month, when the group said it had downed a civilian helicopter and taken three more hostages.
Jeremy McDermott, the co-founder of Insight Crime, a foundation that tracks criminal groups, said the group’s fractured command structure meant that some factions kept fighting the government even while others may express interest in a peace deal.
“The ELN isn’t a vertically integrated organization,” he said.
His foundation is also tracking another problem for the government: Former rebels of the FARC who have taken up arms once again. Last fall, Insight Crime estimated that as many as 2,800 fighters may have returned to arms — about 40 percent of the number that fought before the peace deal.
Jairo Libreros, a professor at Externado University in Bogotá who also works as a security analyst, said he saw little option for the government other than to continue fighting guerrilla groups like the rogue FARC fighters and ELN.
“The ELN is still anchored in ideologies from the last century,” he said, referring to its vows to continue Marxist struggle. “But this attack closes any window there was for negotiation in the short term.”