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Wednesday, 4 October, 2000, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Red Cross suspends work in Colombia
Paramilitaries on patrol in southern province of Putumayo
Paramilitaries are on high alert in Putumayo
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it will no longer evacuate wounded people in Colombia's escalating civil conflicts.

The announcement came after the second incident of wounded people being executed whilst being carried by Red Cross ambulance.

In the latest incident, an ambulance was leaving the scene of fierce fighting in the southern province of Putumayo, Colombia's coca growing heartland, carrying a wounded paramilitary fighter.

Colombia map
It was stopped by a guerrilla roadblock, the back doors opened and the wounded paramilitary in the back executed.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which admitted to the killing, said it was directed against its hated paramilitary enemies, not the Red Cross.

This is the second attack in 10 days on Red Cross ambulances and has prompted the organisation to release a statement from Geneva saying it will no longer conduct medical evacuations in Colombia until it gets guarantees from the warring faction that its neutrality will be respected.

Danger zone

The previous violation was committed by paramilitaries of the right-wing self-defence forces of Colombia, who dragged a wounded young guerrilla woman from an ambulance.

She was later found dead, shot through the head.

The violations of Red Cross neutrality are a sign of the country's increasingly vicious civil conflict, with fighting across the country and an average of one massacre every day.

The area of Putumayo, home to 6000 hectares of coca, the raw material for cocaine, is where the latest fighting is going on.

It is also where a recent package of $1.3bn worth of mainly military aid from the United States will be deployed, as the US gets further involved in Colombia's bloody war.

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See also:

21 Sep 00 | Americas
Colombian army frees hostages
09 Sep 00 | Americas
Hijacked Colombian plane released
18 Sep 00 | Americas
Mass abduction from Cali restaurants
29 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
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