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NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY
aka ELN; Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional
Description: The National Liberation Army (ELN) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The ELN is a Colombian Marxist-Leninist group formed in 1964. It is primarily rural-based, though it also has several urban units. The ELN remains focused on attacking economic infrastructure, in particular oil and gas pipelines and electricity pylons, and extorting foreign and local companies.
Activities: The ELN engages in kidnappings, hijackings, bombings, drug trafficking, and extortion activities. The group also uses intimidation of judges, prosecutors and witnesses and has been involved in the murder of teachers and trade unionists. Historically, the ELN has been one of the most prolific users of anti-personnel mines in Colombia. In recent years, the ELN has launched joint attacks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest terrorist organization.
In September 2012, an Ecuadorian hostage escaped from the ELN after two years of captivity. He reported that ELN guerrillas assassinated his father on January 31, after he paid the ransom the group had requested for the release of his son. In November, an ELN bomb killed one person and injured three in El Tarra, Catatumbo, near the Venezuelan border. ELN attacks on Colombia’s oil and gas industry continued in 2012, resulting in major economic damage, and numerous deaths and kidnappings. After demanding a nearly $300,000 ransom, the ELN released two kidnapped oil workers after 12 days of captivity in Arauca Department in December. The ELN released another two oil workers within 48 hours.
Strength: Approximately 2,000 armed combatants and an unknown number of active supporters.
Location/Area of Operation: Mostly in the rural and mountainous areas of northern, northeastern, and southwestern Colombia, as well as the border regions with Venezuela.
Funding and External Aid: The ELN draws its funding from the narcotics trade and from extortion of oil and gas companies. Additional funds are derived from kidnapping ransoms. There is no known external aid.