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Colombia says FARC rebels hit two oil pipelines, coal rail line

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 22 Jan 2013 17:15 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* 48,000-barrels-per-day pipeline blown up

* Cerrejon rail line attacked, operations not affected

* FARC, government holding peace talks since November

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas have dynamited two southern oil pipelines and planted a bomb on the top coal exporter's northern railway after the end of a rebel ceasefire, officials said on Tuesday.

A unilateral two-month truce declared by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, at the start of peace talks with the Colombian government ended on Sunday without an extension. The guerrillas wanted a bilateral ceasefire.

President Juan Manuel Santos' administration has said it will not stop military operations against the Marxist rebels, who have been fighting successive Colombian governments since the 1960s, until a final peace deal is reached.

In the first attack after the end of the truce, FARC guerrillas blew up a section of the Transandino pipeline on Sunday in the jungle-covered Putumayo province near the border with Ecuador, a source at state-run oil company Ecopetrol said.

The 190-mile (306-km) line has a capacity of 48,000 barrels of oil per day and runs from fields in Putumayo to the Pacific coast.

Later on Sunday, rebels destroyed four sections of a smaller line that takes crude oil from several wells to a storage facility from where it is transported through the Transandino line, the sources said.

On Monday night, northern units of the FARC tossed a bomb onto the railway of the country's No. 1 coal exporter, Cerrejon, in the Guajira province, according to military sources.

The company - a joint venture between BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Xstrata - said there had been no injuries or fatalities in the attack and that the train was operating normally.

Colombia is the world's No. 4 coal exporter and Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer.

Negotiations to bring an end to Latin America's longest-running insurgency began in November when the government and the FARC sat down for the first round of talks on a five-point peace agenda in Cuba. The third round of talks started earlier this month.

Over the last year, rebels have increased attacks against oil and mining installations - bombings of oil pipelines shot up 460 percent in the January-August period to 117 compared with the same period in 2011, according to the Defense Ministry.

A government offensive over the past decade against the drug-funded FARC has improved stability and helped attract billions of dollars of foreign direct investment, mostly in the oil and mining sectors, boosting economic growth.

But security is still an issue, especially in rural areas, where more exploration is taking place.

Highlighting the risks to companies in the Andean nation, five workers, including a Canadian, two Peruvians and two Colombians, were kidnapped on Friday by a smaller rebel group at a gold mine in northern Colombia.

Canadian mining company Braeval said those kidnapped worked at its Snow mine project. (Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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