Colombian rebels attack Ecopetrol's Cano Limon pipeline

BOGOTA Fri Jan 4, 2013 1:30pm EST

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BOGOTA Jan 4 (Reuters) - Colombian rebels blew up a section of the Cano Limon-Covenas pipeline owned by state oil company Ecopetrol, a military source said on Friday, in the first attack on oil infrastructure this year.

Oil spillage and environmental damage to the rural area in Colombia's Norte de Santander province was limited because the pipeline was shut for maintenance, but the explosion caused some oil to leak into the River Arauca, a spokesman for Ecopetrol said.

Ecopetrol is seeking to clean up the contamination, he said.

Marxist insurgent groups in Latin America's fourth-largest oil producer have stepped up bombings over the past year, especially against the 480-mile (780-km) Cano Limon-Covenas line, which has a capacity of 220,000-barrels per day and usually pumps around 80,000 barrels.

There were 142 attacks on pipelines between January and October last year, according to Defense Ministry data.

Latin America's longest running insurgency is at its weakest in decades. But attacks on pipelines in remote areas have cut into production goals, and kept the government from reaching its target of 1 million barrels per day until late last year.

The military source did not say which rebel group launched the attack, but the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), often responsible for such acts, is currently negotiating peace with the government. In November, it called a unilateral ceasefire.

The National Liberation Army, or ELN, also bombs economic infrastructure like oil pipelines.

Ecopetrol does not comment on whether rebels groups have attacked its infrastructure.

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