(AA) – President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday ordered the restart of bombing raids against FARC rebel positions after 11 soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in a guerrilla attack earlier in the day.
“I have ordered the armed forces to lift the bombing suspension order on FARC encampments until otherwise advised,” Santos said following a Security Council meeting in Cali.
“Let me be clear to the FARC that I will not be pressured by unspeakable actions such as this one into making a decision about a bilateral cease-fire,” he added.
Wednesday’s offensive was the single most deadly attack on the Colombian armed forces since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, declared a unilateral cease-fire Dec. 20.
The attack was carried out against the military garrison by members of FARC’s mobile “Miller Perdomo” unit active in the area, according to reports from the outskirts of Timba, about 30 miles south of the industrial and commercial hub of Cali.
Gen. Mario Valencia, commander of the Colombian army’s third division, said the soldiers were attacked with “explosives, grenades and firearms,” and that it was not an ambush but a premeditated attack.
Speaking from Havana where the FARC are involved in on-going peace dialogues with a government negotiating team since November 2012, rebel spokesperson Félix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro, alias “Pastor Alape,” confirmed the attack and said that it resulted from the government’s “incoherency” in that, “it is ordering military operations against the guerrillas who have called a truce.”
“A bilateral cease-fire is urgent for the nation and this is what the country is waiting for,” he added.
Santos suspended bombing raids on April 8 for another month against guerrilla installations and columns.
But Wednesday’s attack comes only one day after Alape suggested during an interview a day before with Colombia’s Blu Radio that the guerrilla group was contemplating laying down their weapons.
Colombian Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otálora demanded FARC explain the attack that brings an end to its unilateral cease-fire.
The FARC continually insists it will only use force when its combatants come under attack and that its shows of force are defensive in nature. But the most recent report produced by the Conflict Analysis Resource Center in Bogota shows the guerrillas have launched five separate offensives in the past month in violation of the terms of their own unilateral and indefinite cease-fire.
The region of Cauca where the bloody attack took place is one of the most strongly disputed areas in Colombia. The challenging terrain covers strategic corridors that FARC has used to transport illicit drugs to the Pacific coast for exportation and for the importation of weapons.