Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN), the largest remaining armed group in the country, Friday warned the government that the killing of one of their leaders earlier this week would not go unpunished.
Ángel Padilla Romero, also known as “Fabián,” died in a Cali hospital of his wounds after a military bombing, the government announced Tuesday.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) said in a statement it would make disproportionately use force and explosives in response to the attack.
For the Colombian government, killing Fabián was one of the “most important operations against the ELN in recent years.” On Thursday President Ivan Duque said the country would not be intimidated by threats from armed groups. “As the supreme commander of the armed forces … I want to tell you that we will never give in to any threat from armed groups. We are fighting them and we will continue to fight them with all our determination,” Duque said.
The ELN is believed to have some 2,300 active fighters in rural areas where it operates, mostly against government targets, although some civilians have been injured. After a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the ELN remains the oldest and strongest domestic armed challenge to the Bogotá government as dissident groups are on the rise.
Some 1,900 Colombian rebel fighters are also said to be operating from neighbouring Venezuela. Many FARC commanders and troops did not join the peace agreement.
“Colombia is facing a system of different groups, cells and networks of different sizes and power capacities, which all have the possibility to challenge national security,” Oscar Palma, a professor at Bogota’s Rosario University and expert in national security issues told Al Jazeera.