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Militant attack against oil pipeline recorded in Putumayo on October 19

Reports indicate that on October 19 an explosive charge destroyed a section of an oil pipeline located in the Villa Garzón municipality, in Putumayo Department. The attacked infrastructure belongs to Canadian-based Gran Tierra Energy. While security services reportedly arrived at the scene shortly after the explosion took place, no suspects have been detained at the time of writing. It was further reported that the damaged section of the pipeline has subsequently been repaired. On March 24 a soldier died and two were injured after stepping on landmines placed by militants near the Transandino pipeline connecting Ecuador and Colombia.

Ample precedent suggests the attack was likely carried out by members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) or dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Both groups operate extensively in the southwestern region near the border with Ecuador. Furthermore, while FARC dissidents opposing the government-sponsored peace process are known to cooperate with the ELN, the latter has conducted several attacks against oil pipelines in recent years. These attacks usually take place in Putumayo and in Catatumbo, in the Norte de Santander Department, where the prominent Caño Limón Coveñas pipeline is located. Reports published in early September citing official sources indicate that this pipeline was targeted at least 63 times throughout 2018. These incidents are unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future, especially given that such attacks can be carried out without much preparation or without the use of sophisticated explosives. In regards to Putumayo, although security services have increased their presence in the region in recent months, the difficult geography of the Colombian Andean region makes it harder to proactively prevent further attacks.

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