(MENAFN - The Peninsula) AA
BOGOTA, Colombia: The military was given the go-ahead Tuesday to use all of its resources to combat FARC dissident groups that control lucrative drug shipping routes in dozens of towns.
A court approved the order signed Oct. 26 by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas that allows attacks, in particular, bombardments of dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) members and the Organized Armed Groups.
The military waited for the approval to ensure protection of personnel from running afoul of international humanitarian laws and being subject to criminal charges.
'We are coming after the Organized Armed Groups residual to the FARC with all of our forces, Villegas said a statement Tuesday.
This new decree has 'established clear concepts and conforms to international standards and provides instructions to the Colombian Military's High Command and that of the Police, he added.
Before the green light, the air force could bomb only installations and camps belonging to FARC break-away groups. But the new order allows the military to target the groups in addition to their infrastructure.
Government intelligence units said there are more than 20 armed groups divided between the dissidents and smaller criminal gangs operating in 12 departments and 41 towns.
The FARC, which signed a peace agreement with the government last November after 53 years of conflict, has informed authorities that an estimated 480 former members have remained illegal as dissident groups.
The military believes an additional 280 men have been recruited by those dissident groups that continue to extort communities and businesses and control strategic drug corridors in Meta, Caquetá and Guaviare.
The largest dissident group of an estimated 350 combatants is made up of men and recruits belonging to the FARC's former First and Seventh Fronts.