Colombian prosecutors will ask Interpol to arrest leaders of the far-left guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) who are abroad, Radio Caracol reported Tuesday. Prosecutors had earlier ordered the capture of 21 leading ELN members after the group launched a new offensive over the weekend. Those wanted by the prosecutors include ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista alias Gabino and Israel Ramirez alias Pablo Beltran, who has represented the group in negotiations with the government.
Military authorities believe Rodriguez Bautista and other leading members to be in Venezuela. The 21 are being sought on charges including rebellion, homicide, forced disappearances, displacement and recruiting children. The arrest warrants were prompted partly by an ELN offensive launched on Saturday that was due to last until Tuesday.
A police officer was killed during the "armed stoppage," which has mainly targeted bridges and other transport infrastructure in an attempt to block traffic and prevent people from going to work.
ELN is Colombia's last active rebel group after the much bigger FARC signed a peace deal with the government in November 2016. The government suspended peace talks with ELN in January after it resumed attacks immediately after completing a three-month ceasefire.
ELN said the ongoing offensive was protesting the suspension of the peace talks, but President Juan Manuel Santos said it would be "very difficult" to restart them at this stage. Not only does the continuing violence constitute an obstacle, but Santos' government also has little time before the parliamentary elections on March 11 and presidential elections on May 27.
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