Training Colombians to Protect Pipeline

7th Special Forces Group (ABN)
January 18, 2003

U.S. Special Forces are in Colombia to train government troops to protect a key oil pipeline from leftist rebel attacks. 

U.S. diplomats say about 70 members of the 7th Special Forces Group, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina will spend the next several months instructing two Colombian army brigades on how to protect the Cano Limon oil pipeline. 

The pipeline, which supplies oil for the Los Angeles-based firm Occidental Petroleum, stretches almost 800 kilometers across some of Colombia's most violent areas. It has been a frequent target for attacks by Colombia's two largest rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army. 

An estimated 40 attacks were staged last year. In 2001, rebels attacked the pipeline a record 170 times. 

The deployment of U.S. Special Forces followed a decision by the U.S. government to expand military assistance in Colombia. 

Previously, military aid and training was largely restricted to battling cocaine production. The policy changed after the September 11th terrorist attacks to include Colombia's illegal armed groups, involved in the Andean country's 38-year-old civil war. 

Colombia's civil war pits the rebels against rightist paramilitaries and the government. At least 40,0000 people have been killed in the past decade. 

VOA News, Reuters and AP. 

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