11 Dead in Colombia Offensive
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- An offensive by a paramilitary militia this week
disrupted peace talks with leftist guerrillas and left at least 11 combatants dead,
authorities said on Saturday.
Clashes between the right-wing paramilitary AUC and National Liberation
rebels began Tuesday when some 800 AUC fighters attacked guerrilla positions in
the southern part of Bolivar State, army Gen. Martin Carreno said.
At least seven guerrillas and four paramilitary fighters were killed in
the fighting that
ended on Friday, he said.
The offensive near guerrilla base camps also prevented ELN commanders from
attending peace talks on Thursday with civilian negotiators, a spokeswoman from
government peace envoy Camilo Gomez's office said.
The fighting took place just outside a 1,900 square-mile zone the government
President Andres Pastrana appears on the verge of temporarily ceding to the
guerrillas to begin formal peace negotiations.
The military recently yanked troops from the region after guerrillas complained
military operations were making it impossible for them to meet with government
In a letter posted Thursday on the AUC's internet site, paramilitary chief
Castano said a stronghold for the rebel group -- the second largest in Colombia --
would inflame the 37-year armed conflict. He said his fighters were only ``trying to
do what the army has been prevented from doing.''