Colombia attorney general stands by claim that ELN rebels plan to kill him

FILE PHOTO: Francisco Barbosa, Colombian Attorney General speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's attorney general on Wednesday defended the credibility of intelligence reports that ELN rebels were plotting to kill him and two other people despite denials by the ELN and military.

Two weeks ago, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa reported that the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group planned to assassinate him using a sniper.

Barbosa's claim was followed by similar reports of planned attacks against Maria Fernanda Cabal, a senator of the right-wing Democratic Center party, and retired army general Eduardo Zapateiro.

The ELN has denied it planned the attacks, while Colombia's government has said it had no received no such reports.

The attorney general's office said in a statement on Wednesday that it had heard from three separate sources that the ELN planned an attack against Barbosa, Cabal and Zapateiro in the capital, Bogota.

Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez and military leadership said late on Tuesday in a statement that the armed forces had access to the same information on Aug. 4 and did not see evidence of a threat.

"The attorney general's office views with deep concern that ... the intelligence community and state defense agencies have not carried out significant analysis and have minimized the importance of sensitive information concerning the ELN's plans," the statement added.

The ELN and Colombia's government began a six-month ceasefire this month amid ongoing peace talks, which aim to end the guerrilla group's role in Colombia's six decades of internal armed conflict.

For two years, intelligence sources have known about the ELN's plan to carry out an attack in Bogota, the attorney general's statement said. In 2019 the ELN bombed a police academy in Bogota, killing 22 people.

Top ELN commander Antonio Garcia labeled the reports of planned attacks as "a move against the ELN and the peace process" in a message on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)