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Deadly attacks intensify violence in southwest Colombia

Fresh violence in southwest Colombia injured several civilians and resulted in the deaths of at least four people – including two police officers – on 20 May. Colombia’s defence minister, Ivan Velasquez, attributed the attacks to the EMC militia group, a breakaway faction of the now-defunct rebel group FARC. The EMC launched separate gun and bomb attacks on a hospital in the town of Jamundí and a police station in the town of Morales. 

In April, the FARC-EMC rejected the Colombian government's efforts to hold peace talks with guerrilla organisations. Since then, the group has staged a series of attacks on police and military targets. Security analysts believe the 20 May attacks are a show of defiance towards the government and other rebel groups that are still participating in the peace talks.

The EMC is one of the armed groups that emerged after FARC's 2016 peace deal with the government, which ended decades of civil war. The much-hoped-for peace, however, has been elusive in Colombia as holdout groups continue to fight for control of drug production and smuggling territories.

According to the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), in 2023, at least 250,000 people suffered forced displacement, confinement, threats, homicides, landmine explosions, and forced recruitment as a result of the conflict. An estimated 8.3 million people will require aid in 2024 if the violence continues.  

Colombia is also home to over 2.9 million Venezuelans who have fled their country since 2015, and the 2024 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) indicates that up to 4.71 million people, including migrants, refugees, and host communities in Colombia, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

These challenges are compounded by the impact of climate change, which is disrupting lives and livelihoods across the country.

For more background on the peace efforts in Colombia, read our analysis: 

Weapons owned by Marxist National Liberation Army rebels

How peace efforts are making a difference (or not) in Colombia

Aid groups and crisis experts welcome the new strategy but doubt affected communities will see large reductions in violence any time soon.

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