Colombia arrests 10 over bombing, shooting of president's helicopter


FILE PHOTO: The mark of a projectile impact is seen on a helicopter that Colombian President Ivan Duque was traveling in, after it suffered an attack during an overflight, according to authorities, in Cucuta, Colombia June 25, 2021. Colombia Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia arrested 10 people accused of involvement in attacks on a helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque and a military base last month that officials said on Thursday were planned by former FARC rebel leaders based in Venezuela.

The car bombing at the base in the northeastern city of Cucuta, home to the army's 30th brigade, wounded 44 people, including two U.S. military advisers. Later in June, a helicopter approaching city with Duque and other officials aboard was strafed by bullets.

The 10 people captured in Norte de Santander province are former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a press conference broadcast via social media, and belong to the dissidents' 33rd front.

Three took part in the planning and execution of both attacks and have been detained and charged, while another is a retired army captain, Barbosa said.

Orders to carry out the attacks came from former FARC leaders who are operating from Venezuela, Defense Minister Diego Molano said during the conference.

He said the incidents demonstrated the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sheltered FARC dissidents, calling them "terrorists".

"It's clear that this attack against the president, against the 30th brigade, was planned from Venezuela," Molano said.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colombia's government has long accused Maduro of turning a blind eye to the presence of Colombian rebels on his country's territory. Maduro, in turn, has said Venezuela is a victim of criminals from Colombia.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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