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The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia
"Homicides have reached over 23,000"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 06:45 GMT
Colombia murder rate soars

Rebels Rebel forces are blamed for about half of the killings


Three people have died every hour in Colombia as a result of violence, according to government statistics.

The Colombian Government's human rights office said that politically motivated and criminal killings reached new heights despite attempts to end the country's long-running civil conflict.

Preliminary figures show there were 23,000 killings this year - making Colombia's murder rate the highest in Latin America.

A BBC correspondent in Colombia says that in a country where left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers and common criminals fight each other and the state, 90% of the killings go unpunished.

The report said 1,863 people died in "massacres" in Colombia - an increase of almost 40% on the previous year.

It classified a massacre as any killing involving three or more fatalities and said there were 402 such cases in 1999.

Right-wing paramilitary groups were blamed for more than one-third of the massacres while Marxist guerrillas were deemed responsible for about 17%. Colombia's security forces were blamed for two percent.

Drugs gangs and other criminals were also blamed for a number of killings but were not split into specific categories.

Preliminary police figures showed there were 23,172 murders over the course of 1999 compared to 23,096 the previous year

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See also:
11 Oct 99 |  Americas
Peasants killed in Colombia massacre
10 Jul 98 |  Americas
Guerrillas' 40-year war

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