Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) on Saturday claimed the responsibility shooting down a military helicopter on Monday in the Teorema municipality of the northeastern province of Norte de Santander.
Authorities said the helicopter had landed in a minefield and was destroyed in the following explosion, denying that it was shot down, and blamed the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels for the incident.
The leader of the Northwestern War Front of ELN, known as Manuel Perez Martinez, countered the official account with a statement on Twitter, saying his men were responsible for the downing of the Black Hawk belonging to the Colombian armed forces.
“We shot the Black Hawk helicopter down, its code is EJC-185, and amid a deployment of government troops it was aiding the work of repairing the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline,” the statement noted.
El Frente de Guerra Nororiental, Cte en Jefe Manuel Pérez Martínez informa sobre derribamiento de Black Hawk en N STD pic.twitter.com/vIOA2LAvxF
— ELN RANPAL (@ELN_RANPAL) June 27, 2015
The Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline was one of the latest to be sabotaged by FARC rebels. The second biggest pipeline which was shut down after an attack on June 17.
After the attack, the ELN said “eight military men - a corporal and seven professional soldiers” were confirmed dead, contradicting the numbers released by the Colombian Defense Ministry. The official figures indicate four deaths as a result of the incident.
The ministry also said that the explosives at the landing site were placed and detonated by the FARC rebels, destroying the helicopter headed for the Filo Guama area.
The Filo Guama area, near the Venezuelan border, is populated by FARC, ELN and the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), reportedly primarily engaged in drug trafficking.