BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Church bombing: All sides accused
Villagers survey the remains of the church in Bojaya
FARC rebels say they hit the church by mistake
The United Nations has released its much-anticipated report on events in Bojaya, where earlier this month more than 100 civilians sheltering in a church were killed when Marxist guerrillas bombed the building.

The UN investigation was commissioned by President Andres Pastrana, but he may not welcome its findings, which lay some of the blame for the tragedy at the government's doorstep.

The carnage in Bojaya, in the western state of Choco, was the worst single event in 38 years of civil conflict in the country.

The report's publication comes as violence continues in the country's second city of Medellin, ahead of Sunday's presidential elections.

FARC blamed

Marxist guerrillas of the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, were battling their right-wing paramilitary enemies in the town of Bojaya when the tragedy at the church occurred.

Colombian President Andres Pastrana
The Colombian president may not welcome the report's findings
When the fighting began on 1 May, 500 terrified villagers took refuge in the church.

The next day a homemade FARC mortar went off-course and fell through the church roof, killing 119 people, almost half of them children.

The UN report laid most of the blame for the deaths on the FARC. The guerrillas admitted they fired the bomb but said it landed on the church by mistake.

The paramilitaries also have to share the blame, according to the UN, because one of their main defensive positions was outside the front of the church.

But what is causing controversy is the amount of blame being laid at the door of the government and the Colombian military.

Both the UN and the Colombian People's Defenders' Office warned the government that the community was in danger after paramilitaries arrived in the area. The warnings were ignored.

The UN also found evidence that elements in the military were working with the paramilitaries, citing the fact that 250 heavily-armed paramilitaries arrived by boat in Bojaya having passed through three army checkpoints without being stopped.

The findings have been angrily challenged by the Colombian military, although the Attorney-General's Office has already opened investigations into the conduct of certain soldiers and local officials.

Fighting continues

Meanwhile at least eight people were killed and more than 30 injured when the army launched a raid in the city of Medellin on Tuesday.

Hundreds of soldiers and police staged the attack on a hillside suburb of the city, looking for left-wing rebels.

Alvaro Uribe
Front-runner Alvaro Uribe comes from Medellin
Residents cowered in fear as troops flooded into the streets, firing assault rifles at nearby apartment buildings.

Medellin is the home of the front-runner in Sunday's presidential elections, Alvaro Uribe, who has promised a tough stance against the rebels.

The prospect of the forthcoming elections has led Brazil to mount its largest ever military operation on the border with Colombia.

Correspondents say Brazil is concerned about a possible spill over of the conflict into Brazil, especially if a hardliner wins Sunday's poll.

According to the Brazilian Defence Ministry, more than 4,000 soldiers, helicopters, planes and river patrols are taking part in simulated combat exercises in the Amazon jungle and increasing border surveillance.

Key stories



See also:

09 May 02 | Americas
21 May 02 | Americas
08 May 02 | Americas
17 May 02 | Americas
04 May 02 | Americas
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |