[Fwd: IPS: Paramilitaries Massacre Supposed Rebel Allies]

Sam Pawlett rsp at SPAMuniserve.com
Fri Aug 20 02:02:17 MDT 1999



                        =============================================
                        The attacks, attributed by witnesses to the
                        right-wing Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia
                        (AUC), have taken place in the northern
                        departments of Bolivar and Cesar, Antioquia
                        in the northwest, Tolima in central Colombia,
                        and Caqueta in the southeast.
_____________________   =============================================
INTER PRESS SERVICE

Thursday, 19 August 1999

                Paramilitaries Massacre Supposed Rebel Allies
                ---------------------------------------------

        By Yadira Ferrer

BOGOTA -- The death toll by paramilitary groups, which have set out on a
killing spree in Colombia targetting supposed guerrilla collaborators,
has reached 28 so far this week.

The attacks, attributed by witnesses to the right-wing Autodefensas
Unidas de Colombia (AUC), have taken place in the northern departments of
Bolivar and Cesar, Antioquia in the northwest, Tolima in central
Colombia, and Caqueta in the southeast.

According to human rights groups, the attacks are part of a paramilitary
strategy to ''deprive the guerrillas of a social base'' by killing
civilians considered sympathetic to the rebels.

In the town of Curumani, in the northern department of Cesar, eight
people were killed Wednesday by an AUC commando, which according to
witnesses began its rounds of death in a petrol station, killing three
members of a family and the manager of the locale.

The paramilitaries then dragged four men out of their homes, killing them
in the street.

Franklin de la Vega, home secretary of the department of Cordoba,
bordering Cesar, declared his region in a state of emergency due to fears
that the paramilitaries would launch attacks in Cordoba next.

De la Vega warned of a possible escalation of mass killings, as part of a
paramilitary offensive to regain control over territory.

Seven other bodies, belonging to members of one family, were pulled out
of a river Wednesday in the town of Morelia, in the southeastern
department of Caqueta.

In farming towns around Zambrano, in the department of Bolivar, 13 people
were killed by AUC Monday, and Catholic Bishop Armando Larios said around
500 people had fled their homes to take shelter in the town Wednesday.

Peasant farmers reported that the 13 victims were killed by gunmen Monday
night in the public squares of Capaca and Campoalegre, in the
municipality of Zambrano, while two other local residents were abducted.

A peasant farmer who made it to safety with his wife and three children
told several radio stations, on the condition of anonymity, that
paramilitaries killed seven of his relatives and gave the rest of the
inhabitants of Capaca two days to abandon their land.

A communique released Wednesday by the leftist Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) said the massacres were committed by
paramilitary units ''with the support of Marine Battalion number three
and troops of the First Army Brigade.''

Around 100 municipalities where police have no presence have been
occupied by guerrilla or paramilitary groups, according to researcher
Alfredo Rangel, with the non-governmental Fundacion Social.

>From January to April, rights organisations logged 3,408 reports of human
rights violations. Paramilitary units were accused in 2,327 cases and the
armed forces in around 150, while the rest were attributed to the
guerrillas, according to the non- governmental Centro de Educacion y
Cultura Popular.

In his weekly audience in the Vatican Wednesday, Pope John Paul II issued
a call for peace in Colombia, and urged the various parties to the
conflict to observe international humanitarian law, which protects
non-combatants.

The Pope dedicated his message to the dozens of people held captive by
the irregular armed groups, which he called on to respect the sacred
right to life, inviting them to reactivate the peace process.

He condemned the kidnapping of Bishop Jose Quintero in the northeastern
town of Tibu Monday, abducted by the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional
(ELN), the second largest insurgent group after FARC.

FARC is holding dozens of civilians, as well as 500 soldiers who it aims
to trade for imprisoned guerrillas. The ELN, meanwhile, is holding around
80 hostages, to pressure the government to give in to its conditions for
a return to the negotiating table.

        Copyright 1999 IPS
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