Terrorism & Insurgency

VBIED attack on Colombian police academy indicates likely renewed intent and capability of ELN to target capital

18 January 2019

Key Points

  • A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated inside a police academy in southwest Bogotá, killing at least 21 people.
  • It is likely that the National Liberation Army (ELN) carried out the attack to pressure the government into restarting peace negotiations.
  • Despite government efforts to dismantle urban insurgent cells through the arrest of dozens of suspects in the last three years and a hiatus in major IED incidents in the capital in since 2017, the incident indicates the intent and capability to target assets in the city remains.
  • Outside the capital, the ELN is likely to step up IED attacks against infrastructure including oil pipelines and energy pylons.


The capital, Bogotá, has suffered its most deadly terrorist attack since 2003

On 17 January, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) was detonated inside the General Santander police academy in the southwest of Bogotá, killing at least 21 people and injuring around 70 others. Initial reports suggest 80kg of Pentolite explosive was used. The attack, which was timed to coincide with a graduation ceremony of police cadets, is the single largest terrorist incident to have occurred in the city since the Nogal nightclub bombing by the now demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which killed 36 people, in 2003.

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