BOGOTA, April 27 A bomb attack early Thursday
morning has caused an oil spill and halted the flow of crude
along Colombia's second largest oil pipeline, the Cano-Limon
Covenas, state oil company Ecopetrol said.
The attack on the 485-mile (780-km) pipeline which can carry
up to 210,000 barrels per day of crude, has so far not affected
production at the Cano Limon field, operated by U.S.-based
Occidental Petroleum Corp, or exports.
Ecopetrol said in a statement that the bomb attack took place
at 1:30 a.m. in El Carmen municipality in eastern Norte de
Santander province. Spillage was affecting a water source that
serves 3,500 area residents, the company added.
Staff are working to clean up the spill, Ecopetrol said. The
pipeline has suffered 31 attacks this year so far and was halted
for 46 days in March and April because of bombings.
Since 1986 the pipeline has been out of service 3,800 days,
or 10.4 years, 30 percent of its life. Some 66 million gallons
of crude have been spilled since 2000, Ecopetrol says.
The company did not specifically name those responsible for
the attacks but the government's chief negotiator at peace talks
with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels tweeted
that the attack was "outrageous and foolish."
"With terrorist attacks like this that affect civilian,
non-combatant populations, the ELN complicates Quito
negotiations," Juan Camilo Restrepo said on Twitter.
Attacks by the ELN - considered a terrorist group by the
United States and European Union - on oil infrastructure have
been frequent during the group's five-decade war with the
government. The attacks, which numbered 43 last year, cause oil
spills and environmental damage.
The ELN has about 2,000 combatants and opposes the presence
of multinational companies in the mining and oil sector,
claiming that they seize natural resources without leaving
benefits to the country's population or economy.
President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN in February
launched formal peace negotiations in Ecuador, but the group has
stepped up its attacks since.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing
by Helen Murphy and Marguerita Choy)