Colombia's leftist guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), launched an armed offensive on Saturday after peace talks with the Colombian government were suspended in January.
The ELN blew up a bridge in Cesar Department in northern Colombia and attacked a truck using an explosive device, said the armed forces.
In late January, the government suspended negotiations with the ELN for an indefinite period after the rebels carried out a series of bombings on police stations, causing several deaths and injuries.
Tensions between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army have been on the rise since late January when peace talks halted after the hold-out guerrilla group killed seven police officers in a series of attacks.
The government retaliated on Feb. 1 by bombing an ELN camp in northwestern Colombia, killing three guerrillas.
The ELN announced via their social media outlets that the "armed strike" would run from Saturday to Tuesday, to protest "the government's refusal" to continue peace talks in Quito, in neighboring Ecuador.
In western Colombia, especially coastal Choco province where the group is active, citizens are encouraged to avoid travel, the statement said, as transport on roads and waterways will be halted.
"We call on transporters and passengers to abstain from traveling to avoid inconveniences," the statement said, according to Reuters. The government rejected the move and said it would continue to battle the ELN.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the ELN's threats against the govern
ment and civilians showed the rebels' true colors.
"This, ultimately, shows the greatest of discrepancies given the purported will of the ELN to seek a peace deal," he said in a statement released by the president's office, as reported by AFP.
The 2,000-strong ELN and the government agreed to their first-ever cease-fire in October, but the rebels launched a new offensive when it expired in early January, killing security force members, bombing major oil pipelines and kidnapping an oil contractor.
The Cano Limon pipeline has been halted for nearly a month because of ELN bombs.
The stalled talks and upsurge in violence threaten to reignite an armed conflict that had been on the path to peaceful resolution following a historic November 2016 peace deal with FARC, Colombia's much larger insurgent group. FARC has since disarmed and transformed itself into a political party, keeping the same acronym.
The ELN is especially strong in eastern Colombia, along the border with Venezuela, and in an impoverished jungle area in northwestern Colombia, experts say.
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