Pablo Escobar Hiring Leftist Rebels In Medellin To Attack Police
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Fugitive drug boss Pablo Escobar is hiring members of a guerrilla front based in Medellin to carry out attacks against the city’s police, a senior government official said Friday.
″We now know that Escobar is hiring the guerrillas to carry out bombings and kill police because (the rebels) are more militarily sophisticated than the cartel’s regular hitmen,″ the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
He said the rebels belong to the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group. The group has an estimated 2,000 members compared to 6,000 combatants in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the largest rebel organization in the country.
The military later announced that 53 guerrillas were killed in a series of gunbattles around the country Friday.
Medellin has been the scene of heightened terrorism the past week.
On Thursday night, a bomb was detonated as a police patrol passed on a city street. Two officers were killed along with the wife of one who had been accompanying her husband on patrol. A pedestrian also died.
At least 10 bombs, all targeting police posts, have been detonated since Saturday. Eight police were injured and one woman was killed.
Ten other police officers have killed since Saturday by gunmen riding in cars or on motorcycles. Their deaths bring to 53 the number of police officers murdered in Medellin since Escobar and nine men broke out of their luxury jail in July.
Seven of the fugitives surrendered, reportedly because of the constant pressure of police searching for them.
Officials say Escobar, leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel, has been paying $2,100 for every police officer killed in an effort to get police to stop searching for him.
The government official said Escobar is trying to intimidate authorities into providing him with a safe way to surrender.
Escobar’s ability to launch attacks has been diminished by the deaths and jailings of many of his associates, though he is still a major threat, the official said.
Medellin authorities are trying to combat that threat through emergency measures. Officials lowered the speed limit, set up military roadblocks across Medellin and ordered drivers to keep inside lights on at night so their faces can be seen.
Leftist rebels have stepped up their offensive over the past week, but an army communique Friday said the military was countering it effectively.
At least 12 guerrillas from the Simon Bolivar Coordinated Front and one soldier were killed during an attack on police barracks in Ginebra, about 185 miles west of Bogota, Police Col. Ismael Hidalgo told RCN radio.
In Caribona, 260 miles north of Bogota, 15 guerrillas were killed in a clash and 12 others died in battles around the town of Socha, 125 northwest of the capital.
The army said 10 rebels, including a political officer, were slain in battles in Cesar, north of Bogota, and four others died in the town of Vega Larga, 240 miles south of Bogota, according to the communique.
It reported only three army casualties.
A guerrilla attack last Saturday on a police post at a remote southern oilfield prompted President Cesar Gaviria to impose a 90-day national emergency Sunday, giving him extra powers to combat guerrillas and drug traffickers.