June 4, 2003

Colombian paramilitary groups spar

                  AUC attacks Metro Block faction

                  BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Colombia's main right-wing paramilitary group attacked a faction
                  that refused to participate in a cease-fire and ongoing peace talks with the government, the faction's
                  leader said.

                  The leader, known as "Rodrigo," told The Associated Press Tuesday that at least two fighters
                  from his Metro Block faction were killed in combat with troops from the United Self-Defense
                  Forces of Colombia in Montebello, 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Bogota.

                  The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, entered peace talks with the government
                  after declaring a cease-fire in December. But Metro Block refused to participate, saying it would
                  negotiate with the government only if leftist rebels, like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
                  Colombia, put down their arms.

                  Meanwhile, authorities offered a 20 million peso (US$7,000) for information leading to the arrest
                  of bombers who detonated a bomb in a garbage bin as police and soldiers passed by, killing
                  four people, including two children.

                  Eleven civilians and two soldiers were wounded in the attack Monday night in Granada, a town
                  located 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Bogota.

                  Police blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the attack.

                  For the past two months, the military has waged an offensive against the FARC and another
                  rebel group, the National Liberation Army, near Granada and other towns in Antioquia state.

                  More than 90 rebels have been killed and dozens have deserted during the offensive, dubbed
                  Operation Martial.

                  Some 3,500 people -- most of them civilians -- die every year in Colombia's war, which pits the
                  two leftist rebel groups against the police and military and the outlawed paramilitary groups.

                  Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.