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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 02:57 GMT
Villagers massacred in Colombia
Farc rebels
The Farc want action against paramilitaries
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota

Alleged right-wing paramilitaries have attacked a village on Colombia's north-west coast, killing 25 people.

Fifty men in military uniform arrived in Chengue in the early hours of the morning.

They rounded up 25 men whom they accused of being guerrilla sympathisers and hacked them to death with machetes.

They then set fire to 30 houses of this village in the northern province of Sucre.

The action has all the hallmarks of a massacre of the Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary army of 8,000 fighters, deeply involved in the drug trade and pledged to destroy Marxist guerrillas.

So far this year police indicate they have murdered up to 100 people they accused of having links with the rebels.

Double pressure

This death squad offensive puts more pressure on President Andres Pastrana on two fronts.

The largest rebel force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), broke off peace talks with the government last year.

They insisted they would only resume negotiations when the government had done something to curb the paramilitaries, who they insist are working in collusion with the army.

There is also mounting pressure in the US to stop military aid to Colombia, as it has again failed to fulfil the human rights conditions normally necessary for such aid.

President Clinton used his presidential waver to get the aid approved and will have to do the same again to get it renewed.

The government, meanwhile, has announced the setting up of a task-force dedicated to tracking down paramilitary finances and taking on the death squads. Commentators here are sceptical anything will come of it.

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See also:

06 Jan 01 | Americas
Twelve killed in Colombia massacre
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
07 Jun 00 | Americas
Colombia overture to rebels
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