Colombia ELN Guerrillas Claim Responsibility for Attacks on Oil Pipeline

BOGOTA (Reuters) — Left-wing guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia have claimed responsibility for a Friday morning attack against a pipeline used to transport crude to the country's most important refinery, located in the city of Barrancabermeja.

The attack resulted in an oil spill which affected surrounding vegetation and soil, the company said in a statement. A spokesman said that a fire that had broken out was later brought under control.

In a statement posted on one of its websites, the ELN said: "Our guerrilla forces carried out an act of sabotage on the La Cira Infantas pipeline used by Ecopetrol today, October 15, in the Paquistan region on the road between Barrancabermeja and Bucaramanga."

The group also took responsibility for attacks against the La Cira Infantas oil field in September, which resulted in production at some of the wells being halted.

The La Cira Infantas oil field produces around 30,000 barrels of crude per day. Production was not stopped at any of the wells following the attack on Friday, an Ecopetrol spokesman said.

Ecopetrol, Colombia's largest company, owns 52% of the field, while the remaining 48% belongs to SierraCol Energy.

The ELN said it wanted to "open a debate" on the use of the country's resources, in particular oil. It said it would be willing to discuss halting its attacks against oil infrastructure in exchange for eliminating road tolls and adjusting fuel costs.

Attacks against oil pipelines and other infrastructure in Colombia are common, with 28 such incidents recorded in 2021 through September. In 2020, Ecopetrol recorded 51 oil infrastructure attacks.

"Ecopetrol rejects violent actions committed by third parties against the pipeline," the company said in a statement.

Peace talks between the ELN - which was founded by radical Catholic priests in 1964 - and Colombia's government were put on ice after a rebel bombing killed 22 police cadets in 2019.

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