National Liberation Army

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National Liberation Army

National Liberation Army in 2016

aka ELN; Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional


In 2016, the ELN continued to target Colombia's infrastructure, particularly oil pipelines. The ELN also launched mortars at police stations and the military, placed explosive devices near roads, and engaged in sniper attacks, roadblocks, and ambushes. In February, the ELN initiated a wave of violent attacks to force a 72-hour economic shutdown in several parts of the country. On May 22, the ELN kidnapped three journalists in Norte de Santander, who were released six days later to a Catholic Church delegation. On October 27, the ELN killed two civilian truck drivers in Arauca.


The National Liberation Army (ELN) was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on October 8, 1997. The ELN is a Colombian Marxist-Leninist group formed in 1964. It is primarily rural-based, although it has several urban units. The ELN remains focused on attacking economic infrastructure – in particular oil and gas pipelines and electricity pylons – and on extorting foreign and local companies. ELN attacks in 2016 appeared to focus on improving the group's negotiation position in advance of peace talks with the Colombian government.

Funding and External Aid

The ELN draws its funding from the illicit narcotics trade and from extortion of oil and gas companies. Additional funds are derived from kidnapping ransoms. There is no known external aid.

Location/Area of Operation

Primarily in the rural and mountainous areas of northern, northeastern, and southwestern Colombia, as well as the border regions with Venezuela.


Approximately 1,500 armed combatants and an unknown number of active supporters.

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