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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK
Colombia boosts security for Holy Week
By Jeremy McDermott
BBC correspondent in Bogota

The Colombian Government has deployed a record number of troops and police to guard the country's roads over the Easter holiday weekend, which began on Wednesday night.

Colombian soldier
The troops are out in force in Colombian cities
About 160,000 members of the security forces will be patrolling the highways to prevent any attacks by Marxist rebels.

The commander of the armed forces, General Jorge Enrique Mora has told Colombians not to be afraid to venture out over the Holy Week, saying that they could trust the Colombian army and police force to protect them.

This is an unprecedented declaration from the military, in a country where some 40% of the territory is dominated by rebels.

Turnaround?

Ten million Colombians are expected to travel to see friends and family or attend religious festivals in this deeply Catholic country.

But the deployment is likely to be seen as a challenge by Colombia's Marxist guerrillas.

Earlier this week, they hijacked and burnt two Red Cross lorries, and they regularly kidnap travellers.

President Alvaro Uribe is trying to convince his countrymen that the tide in the 39-year conflict has turned, and that the security forces can now protect the population.

But with bombs regularly going off in the cities, and much of the countryside in rebel hands, it remains to be seen if this reassurance by the armed forces holds true or whether - as has happened before - it is little more than a hollow boast.


SEE ALSO:
Blast hits Colombia shopping mall
06 Mar 03  |  Americas
Defiant Uribe visits bomb plot town
16 Feb 03  |  Americas
Country profile: Colombia
08 Feb 03  |  Country profiles



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