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The BBC's James Reynolds
"Shot at point blank range"
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The BBC's Iain Haddow
"It's a blow to President Pastrana who's staked his fortunes on getting some sort of peace deal"
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Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 02:17 GMT
Colombia peace mediator killed
Scene of the killings
Eyewitnesses said the victims were forced from their car
The man appointed to negotiate an end to Colombia's civil war has been shot dead by suspected left-wing guerrillas in the southern province of Caqueta.

FARC rebel
The FARC have broken off peace negotiations
Diego Turbay, head of Colombia's congressional peace commission, was travelling to a political meeting when he and five others, including his mother, were forced to lie by the side of the road and shot in the back of the head.

The Colombian authorities were quick to blame rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the attack - but there has been no word so far from the guerrillas.

The attack took place just outside a zone controlled by the FARC and off-limits to the security forces.

Mr Turbay's brother, Rodrigo, died while being held hostage by the FARC in the same region four years ago.

'Tragic news'

Diego Turbay, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, played a prominent role in trying to foster dialogue with Colombia's guerrilla groups and find a solution to the country's 37-year civil war.

Another martyr of peace has just fallen in Colombia

Congress president Mario Uribe
He was travelling in an armoured vehicle from the town of Florencia to the town of Puerto Rico to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new mayor.

A journalist who witnessed the attack said the gunmen were lying in wait for the car at a crossroads near a bridge.

They stopped the car, punctured its tyres and forced the occupants to get out before shooting them, he said.

The president of Congress, Mario Uribe, lamented the "tragic news".

He told local radio station Radionet: "Another martyr of peace has just fallen in Colombia.

"This is the proof that even those working for peace are not safe from the unbridled violence... of those who are showing the whole country with bloody attacks that they don't want a peace process."

Peace talks began two years ago between the FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, and the government, but have yet to achieve any real progress.

The guerrillas broke off negotiations last month, and the government has warned that it may reoccupy the safe haven given to the rebels for the duration of the peace process.

The conflict has claimed some 35,000 civilian lives in the past decade alone.

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See also:

25 Dec 00 | Americas
Colombia announces progress on peace
21 Dec 00 | Americas
Officers charged with massacre
06 Dec 00 | Americas
More Colombians flee violence
16 Nov 00 | Americas
Colombia's peace laboratory
31 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
07 Jun 00 | Americas
Colombia overture to rebels
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