Colombia oil pipeline down after attack, exports OK

Thu May 10, 2012 6:23pm EDT

Related Topics

* FARC to blame for 84 attacks on pipelines last year

* Rebel group weak but targeting oil, mining projects

BOGOTA May 10 (Reuters) - A Colombian oil pipeline is out of operation following a bomb attack blamed on leftist FARC guerrillas, but exports from Latin America's No. 4 oil producer continue as normal, state-run oil company Ecopetrol said on Thursday.

The Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline, which has a capacity of 220,000 barrels per day but usually pumps about 80,000, has been bombed by the FARC several times in recent years. An army source said the rebels were probably behind this attack.

"It's not operating, the attack took place on Wednesday evening," an Ecopetrol executive told Reuters, adding that the country's oil exports continue as normal.

The 480-mile (780-kilometre) pipeline is the second longest in the Andean country and transports crude oil from the Arauca region near the Venezuelan border to the port of Covenas.

The FARC is at its weakest point in decades following a U.S. funded crackdown on the rebels that halved its fighting force, but in recent months they have carried out many attacks on oil and mining infrastructure in remote jungle areas.

The group is to blame for 84 attacks against pipelines last year, a hefty increase from the 31 attacks they allegedly carried out in 2010, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Colombia's oil output has reached record high levels as improved security led to increased investments in existing fields as well as exploration projects.

However, repeated attacks on oil infrastructure by armed groups prevented the country from reaching its goal of producing 1 million barrels of oil a day by the end of 2011.

In late April the FARC kidnapped Romeo Langlois, a French journalist reporting alongside security forces that were carrying out an anti-drug raid in the southern Caqueta region.

The FARC is demanding a wide-ranging debate on freedom of information as a condition for Langlois's release, because it says the government is manipulating journalists to turn public opinion against the group.

Meanwhile, army sources said the rebels were responsible for an attack on a police convoy near the Venezuelan border that killed seven officers on Thursday. (Reporting By Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Eduardo Garcia; editing by Jim Marshall)

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