Colombian paper quotes local defense minister as confirming ex Israeli officers helping government in battle against guerillas, drug lords, while guerrilla group FARC claims Israeli commandos also fighting them in jungles
Colombia's defense minister confirmed recently that ex Israeli military men were helping his government fight guerilla organizations, Colombia weekly Semana recently reported.
Meanwhile, Colombian guerilla group FARC stated that Israeli commandos, along with American and British forces, were operating in the jungles against drug lords and guerilla fighters
While denying this report, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos did admit that a group of Israeli advisors was working alongside local defense officials in the last year.
According to Semana, "A group of former Israeli military officials is counseling the military's top brass on intelligence issues." The paper added that the Israelis were hired by the Colombian Defense Ministry in order to improve the army's intelligence gathering capabilities and the command and control structure within the military.
Defense Minister Santos, said the Semana, was put in touch with the Israelis last year by former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami. Ben Ami's spokesman stated that Santos has been referred to the relevant authorities in Israel.
The contract between the Israeli advisors and the Colombian Defense Ministry was signed in April this year, and sources in the country said that it stood at $10 million.
'Best in the world'
The Israeli group, reportedly made up of three senior generals, a lower ranking officer and three translators, is highly esteemed by the Colombians. "They are like psychoanalysts; they ask us the material questions and help us see all the problems we weren't aware of before," Deputy Defense Minister Sergio Jaramillo told the newspaper. "They are the best in the world," another high ranking officer stated.
The paper described the Israeli aides as "mercenaries," but stressed that the Israeli government was aware of their actions.
In recent years, Israel has become Colombia's number one weapon supplier, with the arms mainly used to battle drug lords. These weapons include drones, light arms and ammunition, observation and communication systems and even special bombs capable of destroying coca fields.
"Israel's methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia," a senior defense official said Thursday, adding that arms export to Colombia has increased significantly in recent years, totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Itamar Eichner, Arieh Egozy and Ororn Meiri contributed to the report