ELN launches armed strike in Colombia and Eastern Australia impacted by heavy flooding
Colombia: ELN carries out “armed strike” ahead of parliamentary elections
The National Liberation Army (ELN) carried out numerous assaults across Colombia between Feb. 23-26 as part of a “national armed strike” to denounce the government’s socioeconomic policies ahead of legislative and presidential elections scheduled for March 13 and May 29. Indepaz – a conflict monitoring NGO based in Bogotá – recorded 56 acts of violence throughout the country in the three-day period, including route obstruction, village patrols, and attacks targeting transportation infrastructure. the majority of these incidents were reported in the departments of Arauca, Cesar, Norte de Santander, Nariño, and Cauca. Highway closures due to explosives planted on the road affected parts of the Pan-American and Pasto Ipiales highways, which significantly disrupted all southbound traffic out of Cali. According to the police, one of the most significant attacks occurred in Palitas – a municipality in Cesar department – where rebels used explosives to destroy a bridge, halting traffic on a main north-south transportation route. Commercial operations of more than 250 maritime vessels were also suspended over fears of potential ELN attacks in the port of Buenaventura. The Colombian government has deployed 240,000 troops nationwide to increase security measures ahead of and during the upcoming elections and claimed to have normalized traffic in the affected regions following the strike. The ELN’s three-day offensive demonstrated the group’s logistical capacity and ability to conduct complex and coordinated attacks across multiple departments. Additional armed strikes and one-off incidents involving the ELN are likely through the election season. While the group poses a nationwide threat, attacks are most likely to materialize in the organization’s regional strongholds that include the western departments of Nariño, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Chocó, and Antioquia; the northern department of Bolivar; and the eastern departments of Norte de Santander, Cesar, and Arauca. Colombian security personnel and government facilities are likeliest to be targeted, although attacks against infrastructure, rural private-sector operations, and key transportation routes are also likely through the end of June, if the presidential election goes to a run-off.
Australia: Heavy rains and flooding cause infrastructure and property damage in eastern states
Flooding caused by heavy rains in Australia’s Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) states has led to casualties, triggered evacuations of tens of thousands of people, and resulted in significant infrastructure and private property damage. Since Feb. 23, ten people have been killed, 60,000 have received evacuation orders, and 300,000 others have been placed under evacuation warnings. Major regional highways and more than 30,000 homes have been damaged by floodwater. Several parts of Australia’s east coast have seen record-breaking rainfall, with certain areas receiving more than a year’s worth of rain between Feb 25-28. In the city of Lismore in NSW, river waters are expected to reach 14.2 meters (46.5 ft), breaking the 1954 flood record of 12.27 meters (40.2 ft). Train and ferry services across Brisbane have been halted due to floodwaters and debris; the port of Brisbane is also closed to all ship movements. While the full extent of the economic impact of recent rainfall and flooding remains unclear, initial reports suggest that the damage to infrastructure and private property is severe. According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the government has received more than 8,000 claims and released AUD 35 million (USD 25.3 million) in disaster payments. The Australian defense forces have deployed 600 personnel to affected areas to assist in rescue and recovery operations. Emergency crews have carried out 300 flood rescues after receiving more than 2,200 requests for assistance between March 1-2. The storm has now shifted south toward Sydney, prompting new evacuation warnings for western regions. The Bureau of Meteorology anticipates that the city could receive months’ worth of rain in a few hours, as officials reported that the Warragamba Dam – the city’s main source of water – began overflowing. Heavy rains are expected to continue into at least March 3, triggering more flooding and complicating emergency relief efforts.