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Colombia: FARC's Raúl Reyes died from stepping on his own landmine

By Raúl Tortolero*

Mexico City, 25.03.08 | Originally published by EXonline | Colombian intelligence maintains that the guerrilla leader died from stepping on an explosive device he had planted there. Frightened and trying to flee in the darkness during the first bombing raid by the Colombian army, Raúl Reyes—FARC’s second in command—stepped on an anti-personnel mine, which destroyed his right leg, its fragments puncturing his face, causing his death shortly thereafter. The blood from his face wound drained onto his white T-shirt. His left eye had burst open and his cheek was shredded.

It was shortly after midnight on that first day of March in Sucumbíos, Ecuador, when Raúl Reyes and his closest guards, as well as some Mexican students, were asleep that the thunder of the smart bombs began to be heard. Bombs guided by computer were launched, once the guerrilla leader had been located shortly after receiving a satellite telephone call that made it possible to identify his exact whereabouts.

When Reyes set off the mine one of his guards also died instantly, and very likely 5 or 6 more people, among whom one might count the Mexicans who were spending the night close to him. The destructive power of each anti-personnel mine can kill as many as seven persons and injure ten more.

Pursuant to security measures, FARC leaders protect themselves by creating a series of concentric circles around camps; each leader protected by several guerrilla soldiers and delineated by anti-personnel mines, in this case the ones known as “leg breakers”.

Colombian military intelligence estimates that during that night’s events between 15 and 20 mines exploded very close to Reyes, within a perimeter of only 25 meters, activated by the fleeing guerrilla fighters and other persons who were spending the night there. Within the first protective circle alone, 120 mines were detected, and in the area surrounding the camp there were as many as 1,200 buried mines.

The objective of using such system is not letting anybody even try to get in and kill FARC rebel leaders and still be able to get away freely. The guerrilla soldiers know only the location of the mines pertaining to the circles under their own vigilance, but not their locations in the remaining circles.

Every so often, Reyes would decide to change the geographic orientation of the “aisle way” to be used for abandoning the camp without any problems, crossing all the circles, and everyday the “aisle way” could be plotted in the direction of a different compass heading. Being able to go in as far as where Reyes was located meant being at this individual’s highest level of trust.

The Colombian government had learned from the case of a previous bombing raid aimed at the camp of ‘El Negro Acacio’, another FARC leader, where no “smart” bombs were used, and where all the bodies were completely burned and the countryside burned as well, that if they wanted to show the world that they had managed to finish off one of these guerrilla fighters, they would then have to prove having done so.

To that end it would be necessary for the bodies to be identifiable in all cases, leaving no doubts that ‘El Negro Acacio’ had died. That is why for the bombing raid against Reyes—carried out with 12 aircrafts—the bombs were programmed to explode 10 to 25 meters above ground level, and not upon contact with the ground, thus they succeeded in having the guerrilla fighters die and still be identified.

Nevertheless, most of the FARC members died as they fumbled in the dark and stepped on, or fell onto, the mines they themselves had placed there.

Which, of course, does not exonerate Colombia from having bombed the camp.

Further proof of all of this is the video recorded by the Ecuadorian Armed Forces at the place of the bombings (which EXCÉLSIOR possesses), where one can see the almost intact bodies of men and women, the electronic equipment in perfect condition, portable electric generators, medicines, wooden ladders, tables, awnings.

For this kind of bombing—which tries to preserve the integrity of the scene—where explosions occur many meters above ground level, there are two other effects: trees are snapped in half at the height of the explosion without any uprooting, and there is no ecological destruction and nothing gets burnt.

The Ecuadorian video also shows these two characteristics markedly, and at no time does one see any craters in the ground.

Meanwhile, according to the Colombian military intelligence, the FARC camp in Ecuador was no improvisation. It had been built at least two years ago. It was well equipped and had many services that cannot be implemented in just a few weeks.

The Colombian soldiers took their time entering the camp after the attack by air because they first had to make sure they did not set off the “leg breaker” mines planted there by the FARC-EP.

Translation by W.K.

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