Timeline: the violence of the Oliver Sinisterra Front

The kidnapping and assasination of the journalists from the "El Comercio" daily was the height of a series of attacks perpetrated by an unlawful armed group known as the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a dissident branch of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The kidnapping of journalists was the realization of a series of threats that the nicknamed "El Guacho", the leader of the group, had made since February 2018. At this date, he began to communicate through Whatsapp with an high ranked official from the Ecuadorian police. The violence of the attacks of the Front increased starting October 5, 2017, with the massacre of peasant leaders in the area of Tumaco, in southern Colombia. this timeline details the milestones of the conflict between the Oliver Sinisterra Front and the two neighboring States.



Massacre in Tumaco

October 5th, 2017

Picture: Colprensa

During a demonstration against the eradication of illegal coca crops, six farmers are killed in a clash with men in uniform in the village of El Tandil in Llorente, Tumaco province.


Attack against a police anti narcotics unit

November 2nd, 2017

First attack attributed to "El Guacho" in Ecuador. A patrol of the Special Anti-Narcotics Mobile Group is attacked with grenades in the area of San Lorenzo, in the Esmeraldas province. No one is injured.



Detention of three people

January 12th, 2018

Three people are detained in Esmeraldas. They are accused of arms trafficking and of belonging to the group of "El Guacho". Their names are Patricinio C.V. alias "Cuco", James C.A alias "James", and Fernando T.V.


Car bomb in San Lorenzo

January 27th, 2018

Picture: Cortesía del Ministerio del Interior

A car bomb explodes at dawn in San Lorenzo, in the province of Esmeraldas, near the police command of the canton. No one is injured.


First communications between police and dissidents

February 20th, 2018

Police chief Alejandro Z. receives two calls from FARC dissident groups threatening of new attacks and demanding the end of police operations.


Arrests and detentions in Mataje and Ricaurte

March 16th, 2018

Early in the morning, the police and the army raid houses in Mataje, Ricaurte and San Lorenzo, in the province of Esmeraldas. Five people linked to "El Guacho" are arrested.


Abduction of three journalists of the newspaper El Comercio

March 26th, 2018

FARC dissidents send, through WhatsApp, proof sof life (photos) of the team of journalists of the daily El Comercio, consisting of reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra.


El Tiempo newspaper announces the release of journalists

March 28th, 2018

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, citing military sources, announces that the journalists were released after joint operations from the two countries. A few hours later, it is confirmed that they have not been released.


A proof of life leaks

April 2nd, 2018

A Colombian media receives two videos sent by the kidnappers during the night of April 2nd and broadcasts them the next day in the morning. In these videos, journalist Javier Ortega tells the demands of the abductors: the exchange of three detainees and the cancellation of the binational agreement against drug trafficking between Ecuador and Colombia.


Bomb attack in Viche

April 4th, 2018

A bomb attack occurs on a bridge in the city of Viche, Quinindé, Ecuador. No one is injured by the explosion. The following police operations lead to the detention of nine people in Esmeraldas and Guayas, prosecuted for terrorism.


A statement reports the death of the journalists

April 11th, 2018

A statement by the Oliver Sinisterra Front reports the assassination of journalists following the failure of negotiations. Governments do not verify its authenticity.


Ecuadorian journalists receive photos of bodies

April 12th, 2018

Colombian journalists receive photographs showing the bodies of journalists from El Comercio. The photos are given to Fundamedios, who in turn transmits them to the Ecuadorian authorities. The Ecuadorian government gives the kidnappers 12 hours to prove that the hostages are still alive.


Government confirms death of journalists

April 13th, 2018

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno confirms the death of the journalists and announces police operations in the region, which result in the arrest of nine people.


Government confirms kidnapping of two civilians

April 17th, 2018

The Ecuadorian government confirms it has received a new video featuring two people, Oscar Villacís and Katty Velasco, also abducted by the Front Oliver Sinisterra.


Government confirms discovery of bodies

June 21st, 2018

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announces via Twitter the discovery of four bodies that may correspond to the journalists murdered at the border.


Government confirms the identity of the bodies

June 26th, 2018

Colombian authorities confirm that the bodies are those of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra. A fourth body is also found in the pits.


Government confirms the discovery of the bodies of Oscar Villacís and Katty Velasco

July 3rd, 2018

Colombian authorities confirm the discovery of two bodies bearing signs of torture and corresponding to Ecuadorians Óscar Villacís and Katty Velasco.