February 6, 2018 / 4:06 PM / 16 days ago

Colombia ELN rebel attack on Cano Limon pipeline extends pumping halt

BOGOTA, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A bomb attack by Marxist ELN rebels destroyed a stretch of Colombia’s second largest oil pipeline, the Cano Limon-Covenas, extending an almost month-long pumping stoppage, sources from the military and state oil company Ecopetrol said on Tuesday.

The attack, which caused a spillage of crude, occurred on Monday in a rural area of ​​the municipality of Saravena, in northeastern Arauca province.

The 485-mile (780-km) pipeline has capacity to transport up to 210,000 barrels of crude a day from the Cano Limon field, operated by Occidental Petroleum Corp, for export via the Caribbean.

Oil flow along the pipeline has been suspended since Jan. 10 when the ELN, the largest active guerrilla group in Colombia, restarted attacks against oil infrastructure and the armed forces when a ceasefire with the government ended.

Ecopetrol SA said it sent personnel to the area to repair the damage.

Attacks by the ELN are frequent as they seek to pressure the government as part of their 53-year conflict. So far this year, there have been 10 attacks against the Cano Limon pipeline.

The ELN has about 2,000 combatants and opposes the presence of multinational companies in the mining and oil sector, claiming that they seize natural resources without leaving benefits for the country’s population or economy.

President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN launched formal peace negotiations in Ecuador a year ago, but the group has stepped up its attacks since the ceasefire ended. The government suspended talks last month when the rebels launched a series of deadly attacks against police.

Santos in late 2016 signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), ending its part in the five-decade conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and displaced millions. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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