Rodolfo Palomino, Director of the Colombian National Police, opened 2016 with a new phase of “Operation Agamemnon” that involves airstrikes against the camps of so-called bacrim (criminal bands) and the Urabeños group, descendants of ERPAC (Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia). The Urabeños, along with with the Rastrojos, Meta, and Aguilas Negras, have evolved into major drug trafficking organisations and are active in 304 municipalities of 21 Colombian provinces.
In the last few years, aerial bombing had already been used against the FARC. In May 2015, 27 guerrilla members were reportedly killed during an air strike of a FARC camp, and 13 others reportedly died in January 2013, when a rebel camp in north-west Antioquia was hit by a series of military bombings. However, this is is the first time that air strikes are directed at a non-political group. What is more, the Urabeños are not based in remote areas as the FARC but in rural areas populated by civilians where the group has created strong ties with the local communities by giving people land in exchange of shelter. Accordingly, the risk of civilian casualties becomes higher.
According to the Indepaz Report by the Colombian Institute for the Study of Development and Peace, the Urabeños are the most serious example of the growing phenomenon of narco paramilitarism and expanding into areas considered critical for the movement of drugs in the country. Operation Agamenmnon is reported to have signficantly impeded the group’s trafficking operations in Uraba Antioquia. The Urabeños boss, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel”, however, has evaded capture so far.