Police officers killed as Colombia rebels launch gun, bomb attacks

Police stand guard outside the Morales police station after militants opened fire and detonated cylinder bombs on it and a bank in the town of Morales, Cauca department, Colombia, on May 20, 2024. [AFP]

Colombian guerrilla fighters killed two police officers and two other people Monday in separate gun and bomb attacks that injured at least seven in the country's troubled southwest, officials said.

Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez pinned an attack in the town of Morales, in the Cauca department, on Central General Staff (EMC) rebels who had rejected a peace deal the FARC Marxist guerrilla group signed with the government in 2016.

EMC militants opened fire and set off cylinder bombs at a police station in Morales, killing two officers and two other people in the prison holding cells in what Velasquez labeled a "terrorist attack."

Three other officers were injured.

The army said it had sent 100 soldiers to the town, where Police Director William Salamanca said more explosive devices have been found in the streets.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) observed the police station in ruins, with multiple bullet marks in its facade — an image reminiscent of the deadly raids of the now-extinct FARC in the 1990s.

"It was two hours of anguish," a Morales resident who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Velasquez traveled at the request of President Gustavo Petro to Popayan, the capital of the Cauca department, where he said officials had reported "harassment" by guerrillas in several other towns as well.

Petro described the situation in Cauca as "unacceptable."

"We will not tolerate the continued terrorization of the population with terrorist attacks," he wrote on X.

In the neighboring department of Valle del Cauca to the north, a motorcycle loaded with explosives was detonated, injuring four people, including three children, officials there reported.

The two departments are a hotbed of activity by EMC fighters under the control of guerrilla leader Ivan Mordisco, who quit the peace process in April after a split within the group, which had united some 3,500 combatants.

The government has since launched an offensive against Mordisco's forces while continuing negotiations with the other faction.