Saturday, March 19, 2011

Death from the Sky! Return of the Cylinder Bombs.

Lethal weapon (Photo: Colmbian military)
In recent weeks, the FARC guerrillas have brought back perhaps their most horrific and unethical weapon - the cylinder bomb.

Aftermath of attack on a police station (Photo: El Nuevo Dia)
These are home-made bombs made out of the sort of cooking gas cylinders which restaurants commonly use. The guerrillas fill the cylinders with shrapnel, stick them into tubes and launch them in a primitive mortar. They are simple, deadly, and worst of all, terribly inaccurate.

Of course, the FARC's is a futile, wrong-headed, destructive drug-financed effort which inflicts most of its damage on Colombia's poor. The guerrillas' tactics - planting land mines, extortion, displacing civilians, drug trafficking and recruiting children are as a rule reprehensible. But the group's cylinder bombs have received particular condemnation from human rights organizations because of their arbitrariness and the toll on civilians. (The same can be said of land mines, which don't distinguish soldiers from child goat herders.)

Aftermath of the 2002 Bojayá bombing. 
In 2002, the FARC were fighting against their paramilitary enemies for control of a small town in Choco, an impoverished Afro-Colombian region near the Pacific Coast. The town's women and children believed that they'd found safe refuge in the town's church. But a FARC cylinder bomb aimed at the paramilitaries landed instead - you guessed it - on the church's rooftop, killing 130 people.

And now the FARC have brought this horrific weapon back.

In recent weeks, these weapons have damaged a school, attacked a police station killing civilians, and killed three members of a family, including a two-year-old girl, when a bomb fell on their house while they were sleeping.

"The FARC-EP’s continued use of gas cylinder bombs shows this armed group’s flagrant disregard for lives of civilians," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "The FARC must immediately cease these horrific attacks, which violate the most basic principles of the laws of war."

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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