Cuba, Colombia face standoff over extradition of ELN rebels

Published 21.01.2019 00:07

Colombia called on Cuba to arrest 10 National Liberation Army (ELN) commanders currently in Havana for stalled peace talks after a car bombing blamed on the leftist rebels killed 21 people and injured dozens at a police academy in Bogota.

President Ivan Duque said late Friday that he had revoked a decree suspending arrest orders against leaders of Colombia's last remaining rebel group, ELN, who have been living on the communist-run island.

Cuba has sidestepped the Colombian government's extradition request. Cuba's foreign minister said in a tweet late on Friday the country would respect the protocols of the negotiations it had been hosting and was consulting with both parties and the guarantors of the talks. The protocols provide minimum security guarantees for guerrilla leaders to return to mountainous or jungle areas of Colombia with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, providing security from military attack for an agreed period.

Duque's comments came after authorities claimed that a one-armed ELN explosives expert was the person who carried out the attack, the deadliest in the South American nation in 15 years. Even though Jose Aldemar Rojas had no criminal record, authorities said that the 56-year-old man is the same individual who shows up in intelligence reports as alias Mocho Kiko. He is believed to have lost part of his right arm manipulating explosives during a long clandestine career with an ELN cell near the border with Venezuela. He died in Thursday's attack. The shock bombing recalled some of the bloodiest chapters of Colombia's recent past and has raised tough questions about lingering security threats in the wake of a 2016 peace deal with the larger and far more lethal Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

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