BOGOTÁ (AP) – Eight people, apparently peasants, were killed in an area of the Norte de Santander department in northeast Colombia, the Ombudsman’s Office confirmed on Sunday. At the moment the identity of those responsible is unknown, but the authorities are working on the hypothesis that they are drug trafficking groups.
“We require urgent attention from the investigative entities, as well as immediate attention for the victims and the numerous families who have moved in the area,” the agency tweeted.
The Catatumbo Peasant Association had denounced the massacre in a statement, assuring that there were several of its members among the victims.
“Due to these events, the forced displacement of at least 120 people in the area was generated, who have expressed their fear that it is reinforced in the absence of institutions of the Colombian State. We reiterate our urgent call to the regional authorities to make a presence, and carry out the corresponding actions in the area of prevention and in order to avoid the succession of other murders, “the statement added.
Police told The Associated Press that they have immediately opened an investigation with the support of the Attorney General’s Office to clarify these murders. The first hypothesis of the authorities is that those responsible were groups of drug traffickers. However, the border area with Venezuela – one of the most violent in the country – also houses various illegal groups such as the National Liberation Army and dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
A group of 10 judicial investigators arrived in the area on Sunday afternoon to carry out the identification of the victims and transfer the remains to Cúcuta, where they will undergo autopsy, the Attorney General’s Office confirmed to the AP.
“We strongly condemn the massacre that occurred on Saturday night in the Totumito Carboneras neighborhood, on the border between Tibú and Cúcuta, in the border area. According to local authorities, an illegal armed group murdered between 6 and 8 people and caused the displacement of hundreds of people, ”the Organization of American States reported in a statement published on Twitter.
“We demand that the illegal armed groups cease all attacks against the civilian population, and we call on the authorities to urgently reinforce the protection of communities and leaders, as well as to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these serious events. Colombia needs to move towards complete peace, ”added the document.
In addition, on Saturday night, members of the ELN ambushed a patrol of soldiers carrying out control operations in the Tibú area, with the death of two soldiers and eight wounded, reported the commander of the military forces, General Luis Navarro.
In the early hours of Sunday, meanwhile, two soldiers died and three others were seriously injured after falling into a minefield during an area control patrol and protection of a group of coca leaf cultivation eradicators, near the population of Algeria, department of Cauca, in the south-west of the country.
“A goodbye to these soldiers, killed by drug trafficking criminals who installed improvised explosives trying to prevent the troops from eradicating illicit crops in Cauca. I wish soon to recover the three wounded soldiers,” said Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo.