Colombia's ELN rebels attack Cano Limon oil pipeline

BOGOTA (Reuters) — Rebels from the Marxist ELN, Colombia’s largest active guerrilla group, destroyed part of the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline on Monday, just two weeks before the start of a bilateral ceasefire and an end to hostilities, military and Ecopetrol sources said.

The attack occurred in a rural area of ​​Saravena, in western Arauca province on the border with Venezuela, where there was a small oil spill since the pipeline was out of operation for maintenance.

The 485-mi pipeline has capacity to handle up to 210,000 bbl of crude per day and moves the oil from the Cano Limon field, operated by US-based Occidental Petroleum, to the Caribbean Sea.

Ecopetrol officials said they had sent personnel to begin repairs to the pipeline.

Attacks by the National Liberation Army (ELN) against oil and other economic infrastructure are frequent as part of the group’s half-century war with the government.

President Juan Manuel Santos’ government and the ELN began formal peace talks in Ecuador in February and earlier this month agreed to a bilateral ceasefire and an end to hostilities that will begin on Oct. 1 and run until Jan. 12.

Colombia’s internal conflict, which pits government troops against leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups, has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions.

In 2016 the pipeline was attacked 43 times, and so far this year rebels have hit it 44 times, according to Ecopetrol.

The ELN, which has about 2,000 combatants, opposes the presence of multinational companies in the mining and oil sector, arguing that they seize natural resources without benefiting the population or the economy.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Leslie Adler

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