Colombian men face charges in 2021 car bomb targeting US soldiers

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A 32-year-old Colombian man faces charges in a Miami federal court that he, along with an accomplice, tried to murder U.S. troops at a Colombian base with a car bomb.

Ciro Alfonso Gutierrez Ballesteros was extradited from Colombia to face the charges. His initial appearance was on March 7. He is scheduled for a detention and arraignment hearing today.

Prosecutors allege that Gutierrez Ballesteros, working with other co-conspirators, planned the bombing attack on U.S. Army soldiers with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade at the Colombian 30th Army Brigade Base in Cuctua, Colombia, between April and June of 2021, according to court documents.

Cucuta is located on the border with Venezuela and is the capital of the North Santander department, where several criminal groups are fighting over drug trafficking routes and use the loosely patrolled border with Venezuela to smuggle fuel and weapons.

In 2020 advisers from 1st SFAB helped the Colombian military plan anti-narcotics operations, the Associated Press previously reported.

Alleged co-conspirator Andres Fernando Medina Rodriguez, 39, “used his status as a medically discharged Colombian Army officer to gain access to the base and conduct surveillance,” according to a prosecutor’s release.

On multiple occasions between April 2021 and May 2021, Medina Rodriguez took photos and video of where U.S. soldiers were located.

Gutierrez Ballesteros told Medina Rodriguez to buy a vehicle they could use to make a vehicle borne improvised explosive device to strike the base, prosecutors allege.

Medina Rodriguez bought a white Toyota Fortuner, a sport utility vehicle, according to court documents. The pair then drove the vehicle to Venezuela, where it was outfitted with explosives.

On June 15, 2021, Medina Rodriguez drove the bomb-laden SUV to the Colombian base and parked it in front of the 30th Brigade Mission Support Site, according to court documents.

Riding on a motorcycle, Gutierrez Ballesteros had followed Medina Rodriguez to the base. Medina Rodriguez pulled the detonation pin and left on foot before jumping on the motorcycle to flee with Gutierrez Ballesteros.

Three U.S. Army soldiers were injured in the blast. In total, 36 people were injured, 29 of them hospitalized, according to a report from Reuters at the time of the incident.

By July 2021, Colombian officials had arrested the pair along with six others with alleged ties to the attack, according to a release from the Colombian attorney general.

The top prosecutor alleges that the pair were working for the 33rd FARC front, a faction of the larger FARC guerrilla group that has refused to abide by a 2016 peace agreement between the group and the state.

Medina Rodriguez was extradited and faced arraignment in the United States on Dec. 1, 2023. He pleaded not guilty.

A federal grand jury indicted Gutierrez Ballesteros on Feb. 16, 2022. He was recently extradited to face charges in the United States.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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