April 16, 2001

Thirty reported killed by paramilitaries in Colombia

                  BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- As authorities tried to reach the mountain
                  hamlets where rightist paramilitary fighters reportedly massacred 30 people,
                  rival guerrillas on Sunday raided a separate village and killed at least one
                  resident, the army said.

                  Arriving in southwestern Cauca province, the region where the reported
                  paramilitary massacre took place, federal human rights ombudsman
                  Eduardo Cifuentes said he believed "about 30" villagers had been killed in attacks.

                  Reports of the killings by the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or
                  AUC, first surfaced Friday, but authorities were still trying Sunday to reach the
                  remote, mountainous villages.

                  Hundreds have fled the region on the backs of mules and horses seeking refuge in
                  the town of Timba, where they have told their stories to officials.

                  Servio Tulio Diaz, spokesman for the Cauca State governor's office, said many
                  of the victims were reportedly shot after the paramilitaries accused them of being
                  leftist rebel sympathizers.

                  "There is no doubt that there was a large massacre committed by the paramilitaries," said
                  Diaz. "What we don't know is how many people were killed."

                  So far, authorities have confirmed that at least six villagers were executed in the attacks.

                  Meanwhile Sunday, fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
                  or FARC, attacked the Antioquia State village of Caucana early Sunday morning
                  following skirmishes with a right-wing paramilitary group, army Col. Jairo Ovalle
                  told the Associated Press. He said the rebels accused the residents of supporting
                  the paramilitaries.

                  Ovalle said earlier reports from the local mayor that as many as 50 people had
                  been killed in the assault were unfounded. Although the death toll was unknown
                  because of ongoing battles between soldiers and guerrillas, only one villager was
                  confirmed dead.

                  The violence in the region in Antioquia state, 223 miles from the capital, Bogota,
                  began early Sunday when the rebels clashed with paramilitary gunmen.

                  Following the skirmishes, the rebels attacked the village of 5,000 people and
                  torched homes. Soldiers arrived by helicopter several hours later and had
                  regained control by late afternoon, Ovalle said.

                  Paramilitaries and the nation's two main guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary
                  Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army, or
                  ELN, are all active in the violent province.

                  The upsurge in violence comes as peace efforts between President Andres
                  Pastrana's government and both guerrilla groups appear to be foundering.
                  However, the ELN announced on Saturday that it will stop erecting roadblocks
                  along three main highways as a peace gesture.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.