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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 07:52 GMT
Militia massacre in Colombian village
Colombian soldiers
Human rights groups say security forces support the militia
Seventeen people have been killed after a suspected right-wing paramilitary attack in Northern Colombia.

It is believed that people were selected from a hit-list drawn up before militia stormed the fishing village of Nueva Venecia in Magdalena province.

Police say that most of those shot dead were killed because of their alleged involvement in left-wing guerrilla groups in the area.

Farc guerrilla
Leftist and rightist groups have committed massacres
The killers, who were toting automatic rifles, executed them in front of other villagers.

Nueva Venecia is in the heart of the banana-producing region where ultra-right militia and the communist-led Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc)and National Liberation Army rebels have been battling for control.

Peace talks broken

Thirty-five thousand people have been killed in the conflict in the last 10 years.

In the first eight months of this year, 1,389 people - most of them poor farmers - have been killed in massacres committed by leftist and rightist groups.

Farc, Colombia's largest rebel group, broke off nearly two years of peace talks with the government last week, accusing President Andres Pastrana of failing to stop paramilitary "terrorism".

News of the mass shootings came as President Pastrana strongly condemned paramilitaries and vowed to fight against them.

"We emphatically reject the acts of these groups which continue to degrade the armed conflict," he said.

Human rights groups say paramilitary groups operate with the tacit support of state security forces.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | Americas
Colombia's peace laboratory
31 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
09 Jun 00 | Americas
My story: Victim of drug traffickers
29 Nov 99 | Americas
Journalists killed in Colombia
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