Colombia's ELN rebels deny any role in car bombing at military base

FILE PHOTO: A view of the destroyed facilities of a military base, which according to authorities was due to a car bomb explosion, is seen in Cucuta, Colombia June 15, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels on Thursday denied any role in a car bombing at a military base this week that wounded 36 people, causing serious injuries to a Colombian soldier and minor ones to two U.S. military advisers.

The bombing took place on Tuesday afternoon at a base used by the 30th army brigade in the northeastern city of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela. The injured Colombian soldier remains in intensive care.

"No unit of the National Liberation Army has to do with the attack which took place on Tuesday June 15 at the 30th brigade in the city of Cucuta," the group said in a short audio statement.

Colombia's defense minister previously said the attack could have been carried out by the ELN, while the attorney general said that former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who reject a 2016 peace deal could not be ruled out.

Despite the peace deal with the FARC, Colombia's military still battles the ELN, crime gangs and the former FARC members.

All of those groups are present in sometimes restive Norte de Santander province, where the 30th brigade operates.

The ELN is estimated to have some 2,500 combatants and has fought the government since its 1964 founding by extremist Catholic priests.

A 2019 ELN car bomb attack at Bogota's police academy killed 22 people and ended nascent peace talks between the ELN and the government.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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