BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Suspected rightist militias dragged seven
unarmed villagers from their homes and executed them in the town plaza
Tuesday, police said, as political violence surged in Colombia.
The rampage followed bombings of electrical towers and bloody weekend
clashes between guerrillas and government troops. The fresh fighting had
been expected following the expiration last week of a temporary, year-end
In another attack Tuesday, two hand grenades thrown at a small police post
in the capital, Bogota, killed a girl and wounded five people at an adjacent
school, authorities said.
In yet another episode, about 100 armed men wearing the armbands of
Colombia's national paramilitary organization burst into three adjoining
villages in Antioquia State and began shooting people, witnesses said.
Soldiers and police were headed to the villages late Tuesday to try to
confirm the reports.
In a village near the town of Becerril in Cesar state, about 350 miles
Bogota, gunmen lined the seven men up and shot them to death, state police
said. The gunmen arrived with a list of names -- a trademark of rightist
paramilitary groups, who've killed thousands of people they accuse of
collaborating with leftist guerrillas.
The violence coincided with a visit to a rebel stronghold Tuesday by a
envoy, who nonetheless expressed optimism in the country's fledging peace
On Monday, bombs planted by suspected rebels damaged or toppled 22
electrical towers, mostly in Antioquia state, cutting off power and forcing
many schools to close.
The state capital, Medellin, was under severe electricity rationing Tuesday,
and more than 650,000 students were unable to go to school, officials said. In
neighboring Choco State, 14 towns were without any power.
Officials suspect the bombings were carried out by the Leftist National
Liberation Army, or ELN, which routinely sabotages oil pipelines and
Both the ELN and the paramilitary groups have complained about being
excluded from peace negotiations begun a year ago between President
Andres Pastrana and Colombia's largest rebel band, the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
FARC attacks over the weekend killed 75 rebels, twelve soldiers and
police, and eight civilians, the army reported. They were the bloodiest
clashes since a 20-day truce expired on January 10.
Despite the latest violence, U.N. envoy Jan Egeland of Norway said
Tuesday he sees ample "political will" to make peace in Colombia.
Accompanied by presidential peace commissioner Victor G. Ricardo,
Egeland made the statement after meeting with Manuel Marulanda, the
founder and legendary chief of the FARC.
The rendezvous occurred in a massive southern region where Pastrana has
evacuated his troops to facilitate peace talks with the 15,000-member rebel