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ELN rebel leader arrested for Colombia attacks

Bogota, Colombia | AFP | A leader of Colombia’s ELN guerrillas was arrested Thursday in Bogota on suspicion of planning two attacks on police that killed seven and left dozens wounded, prosecutors said.

Rafael Antonio Botero Restrepo, known by the nickname “Tista,” was arrested in a joint operation carried out by the army and prosecution agents.

He is accused of being a top leader in the National Liberation Army (ELN) — Colombia’s last active rebel group, ever since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) concluded a peace deal with the government in 2016.

“He is accused of recruiting minors and the attack on the Macarena bullfighting ring a year ago,” said President Juan Manuel Santos.

He added that Botero was “probably” also behind a bombing last month at a police station in the northern city of Barranquilla that killed six officers and wounded more than 40.

The ELN has admitted it was behind the February 2017 bombing outside the Macarena arena, which killed a policeman and wounded 24 others, as well as two civilians.

The Barranquilla bombing prompted Santos to suspend newly launched peace talks with the ELN, though they have since resumed.

The talks aim to end more than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia, where 260,000 people have been killed and more than 60,000 have disappeared in half a century of violence fueled by rebel groups, paramilitaries and drug cartels.

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