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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 01:57 GMT 02:57 UK
Colombia captures suspected death squad
AUC members arrested last May
AUC wants to rid Colombia of Marxist guerrillas
By Jeremy McDermott in Colombia

Colombian security forces have arrested 22 suspected members of right-wing death squads, including eight believed to have been involved in the bloody massacre of 24 peasants on 10 October.

The arrests come at a time when the Colombian army is fighting accusations that it is collaborating with the paramilitaries in their fight against Marxist guerrillas.

Colombian security forces captured the 22 suspected members of the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a group pledged to eliminate Marxist guerrillas from Colombia.

Colombia map
Its favoured tactic is arriving in guerrilla dominated areas and murdering people suspected of being rebel sympathisers.

This was exactly what happened last Wednesday when some 30 paramilitaries arrived in the area of Buga in the province of Valle del Cauca by the Pacific Ocean.

Here the death squad proceeded to drag people from their homes and stopped a passing bus.

They executed 24 people at point blank range, many in front of their wives and children.

In a particularly cruel spate of killings they told the victims they could run away and then shot them in the back as they fled, finishing off the wounded with a shot to the head, witnesses said.

Eight of the paramilitaries captured are believed to be linked to these massacres in Buga.

But human rights groups insist the army is still in bed with the paramilitaries, and that these arrests were conducted only in response to national and international pressure.

The NGO Human Rights Watch has just released a report called Colombia's Sixth Division, which states that army paramilitary collaboration is closer than ever.

See also:

11 Oct 01 | Americas
Massacres shake Colombia peace deal
06 Oct 01 | Americas
Colombia peace talks rescued
01 Oct 01 | Americas
Murder strains Colombia peace
06 Sep 01 | Americas
Senior peacemaker killed in Colombia
01 May 01 | Americas
Colombia rounds up death squads
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