October 11, 2001

Thirty reported killed in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) --Police said they were investigating reports that as many
as 30 villagers were massacred by paramilitary gunmen.

Witnesses and local reporters told authorities about Wednesday's alleged killings near
the village of Buga in the Cauca River valley 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of

The paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, has previously
killed civilians whom they suspected of aiding leftist rebels who have been waging a
37-year war against the Colombian state.

Despite President Andres Pastrana's efforts to negotiate an end to the war, violence
has continued unabated across this South American country.

In northern Colombia, gunmen stopped vehicles traveling on a highway near the
Caribbean Sea between the provincial capitals of Santa Marta and Riohacha and shot
dead three counternarcotics police and three civilians, police said.

In the nearby Great Marsh, a lagoon west of Santa Marta, the bodies of six
fishermen who had been kidnapped four days ago by suspected paramilitaries
gunmen were discovered.

The Colombian Defense Ministry says that 303 people had been killed through July
of 2001, 199 of them by the AUC. The U.S. government, which is providing millions
of dollars in military aid to the Colombian government, recently added the AUC to its
list of terrorist organizations in the world, along with the leftist Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Even before word of the killings reached Bogota, government officials had expressed
worry that the peace process would be crippled after police said the FARC killed
two policemen in southwestern Narino state.

"This could really be the end of the negotiation process," said Eduardo Cifuentes, the
government's Human Rights Ombudsman. He called on the government to
investigate the alleged murder.

The FARC had kidnapped the two officers and four civilians on a rural highway
Saturday, the army said. The kidnapping came the day after rebel leaders signed an
agreement with the government promising to end their practice of random
kidnappings on highways.

Colombia's war pits leftist guerrillas, including the FARC, the country's largest rebel
group, against government forces and the AUC. The government has been
negotiating with the FARC since late 1998 to end the insurgency, but talks have
yielded no substantial results.

Pastrana has refused to open talks with the AUC.

 Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.