January 15, 2001

Rightist gunmen kill 10 as government
pledges to combat militias


                  BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Suspected rightist paramilitary gunmen stopped a
                  bus in western Colombian and executed 10 passengers while gravely wounding

                  Some 20 assailants wearing military-style uniforms forced the men off the bus
                  Monday in a village outside Popayan, the capital of Cauca State located 220 miles
                  (370 kilometers) from Bogota, and shot them point-blank, state police told The
                  Associated Press.

                  The killers wielding 9mm and .38-calibre pistols
                  were believed to be members of Colombia's
                  nationwide paramilitary umbrella group, the
                  United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC,
                  a police spokesman said on condition of

                  The attack was the latest in a wave of
                  paramilitary violence this month which has
                  prompted new government pledges to crack
                  down on the AUC. The group is widely alleged to
                  operate with complicity and sometimes direct
                  support from elements within the South American
                  country's military.

                  President Andres Pastrana's government,
                  meanwhile, announced measures to deprive
                  rightist militias of the money financing their brutal
                  war against suspected leftists.

                  Curbing army-paramilitary ties and rightist
                  violence are key conditions for Colombia to
                  continue receiving U.S. military aid and training
                  under a $1.3 billion counter-drug aid package.

                  Just two hours after Monday's attack, a high-level
                  commission in Bogota announced that a new
                  "financial brigade" would be created to squeeze
                  wealthy landowners and drug traffickers who illegally finance the outlawed
                  paramilitary gangs.

                  "This brigade will have computers, not rifles," Defense Minister Luis Fernando
                  Ramirez told a news conference. "But it will be more effective than one that kills
                  or captures illegal armed groups."

                  Ramirez said prosecutors, money laundering experts, customs, banking officials
                  and security forces will participate in the new unit's efforts to cut off illegal
                  funding to the AUC and guerrilla groups.

                  A majority of the roughly 3,000 noncombatants killed annually in Colombia's
                  36-year conflict are villagers accused by paramilitaries of collaborating with the