FARC dissidents say they carried out Colombia bombing, target was U.S. advisors

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A FARC dissident commander has taken responsibility for a June bomb attack on a military base in the northeastern Colombian city of Cucuta, as well as the recent shooting of a helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque.

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

Ten people were arrested in July in Norte de Santander province for involvement in the attacks. The attorney general said at the time that all are former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal and belong to the dissident 33rd front.

The bombing attack was focused on "the North American advisors and the leaders of the brigade," a commander who uses the nom de guerre John Mechas told a local journalist in footage filmed on Wednesday in the province's Catatumbo region.

"Obviously we were the ones who did it," Mechas, whose real name is Javier Alonso Velosa, said. "It was opportune to be able - with our own means - to give them a forceful hit."

The dissidents do not consider normal soldiers their enemies, he added, but will fight "the machinery of the oligarchy".

About 13,000 members of the FARC demobilized under the peace deal, which ended the group's part in more than 50 years of conflict.

The group's former members have formed a legal political party called Comunes and are participating in transitional justice proceedings, where they have repeatedly asked forgiveness for murders, kidnappings and other crimes.

According to the armed forces there are about 2,500 FARC dissidents throughout the country.

Neither Colombia's defense ministry nor officials charged with implementing the peace deal immediately responded to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; editing by Richard Pullin)

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