Police believe a bomb that killed five people in Choco, Colombia was either planted by the FARC guerrillas or the Urabeños, demonstrating the willingness of Colombia’s armed groups to employ terror tactics to secure their criminal revenues.
The bomb exploded in a supermarket on the night of February 25 in the city of Quibdo, capital of the Pacific department of Choco. Five people have so far been confirmed killed, and many more injured, reported Radio Santa Fe.
Police believe the attack was in retaliation for the shop refusing to pay extortion fees, and said they suspected the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were responsible. However, they also speculated that it was possible the Urabeños criminal organization, which runs extortion rackets throughout the region, may have been behind the bombing.
Authorities have so far arrested six people in connection with the attack, who officials said were members of a support network of the FARC’s 34th Front, reported Radio Santa Fe.
While the FARC have for years used bomb attacks in their war against the Colombian state, this latest attack stands out for the number of people killed not to further their armed struggle but for purely criminal purposes.
If, as is claimed, the attack was carried out by a FARC “support network,” then this could imply several things. It could be referring to one of the urban militias that the FARC have been expanding in recent years. These militias often operate semi-independently, carrying out their own criminal operations, especially extortion, as well as receiving orders from the guerrillas.
It is also possible that the cell that planted the bomb has no ideological allegiance but instead is sub-contracted by the FARC. There have been numerous indications to suggest the FARC is increasingly paying criminal groups to carry out both political violence, such as the attempted murder of politician Fernando Londoño, and criminal activities, including extortion.
However, it should not be ruled out that the Urabeños were involved, even though it would be unusual for the group to employ insurgency style tactics. Security forces on the Pacific coast recently told InSight Crime that in certain areas in the region, narco-paramilitary groups like the Urabeños work so closely with the FARC they are “more or less the same thing,” and that the Urabeños were suspected of involvement in infrastructure attacks attributed to the FARC.