Seized guns destined for Colombia rebels in Venezuela: sources

February 3, 2021 8:26 AM EST

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Eleven semi-automatic rifles and 12 magazines of ammunition seized in two Colombian police raids last month were destined for leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in Venezuela, a high-ranking police source said on Wednesday.

Colombia's tax and customs police (POLFA) had on Tuesday heralded the late-January seizure of five Anderson AM-15 rifles of U.S. origin and five magazines of 5.56 caliber ammunition and the capture of two suspects, saying it was investigating whether the final destination was Venezuela.

However, a police source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the guns and ammunition were headed across Colombia's porous land border with Venezuela to the ELN.

"The information we have as a result of investigations, the seizure of the weapons, and the arrests is that the weapons were destined for guerrillas from the National Liberation Army who are sheltering in Venezuela," the source said.

A second police source also confirmed the arms were destined for the ELN in Venezuela.

The late January seizure was sparked by an earlier discovery of six other AM-15 rifles and seven magazines during the routine traffic stop of a truck traveling from the capital Bogota to Riohacha in the northeast, not far from the Venezuelan border.

After that discovery POLFA and Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, carried out searches in Riohacha and detained two people.

One of them, an elderly woman and the mother of the second suspect, was determined to have been unaware of the shipment. Her son had used his mother's name on shipping documents to avoid detection and told police all the weapons and ammunition were destined for the ELN.

Colombia has long accused Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro of sheltering ELN guerrillas, including a top commander known by his nom de guerre of Pablito.

The group has some 2,450 combatants and is known for being less centrally controlled than previous Colombian rebel groups.

The Venezuelan government was not immediately available to respond to questions sent by Reuters.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Mark Heinrich)



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