Monday, 15 October, 2001


Colombian paramilitary says killed two congressmen


  By Jason Webb

BOGOTA - The Colombia far-right paramilitary group

  AUC said on Sunday it killed two congressmen

  earlier this month, accusing them of leftist rebel

  links and warning it has more legislators in its



  The AUC Web site

  ( said its

  paramilitary fighters were responsible for killing

  Luis Alfredo Colmenares and Octavio

  Sarmiento, both congressmen representing the

  opposition Liberal Party.


  "The AUC's capital city front, fulfilling in Bogota

  orders from our organization's chiefs of staff,

  killed Octavio Sarmiento and Alfredo

  Colmenares Chia, both recognized bandits," said

  the outlawed AUC -- Spanish initials for United

  Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.


  The 8,000-member paramilitary force accused

  Sarmiento of links to the leftist rebel group

  FARC and said Colmenares was close to a

  smaller Marxist guerrilla army, the ELN.


  Two gunmen on a motorcycle killed Sarmiento

  on Oct. 8. Colmenares was shot to death six

  days earlier.


  The far-right AUC, which is largely funded by

  anti-guerrilla cattle ranchers and by drugs

  money, said it respected the nation's "honourable

  Congress" but said it had its eye on several other

  of its members. It accused these of being corrupt

  and guerrilla sympathizers.


  "This unpatriotic group, who number no more

  than five, should correct their attitude," said the

  AUC, which has earned a blood-curdling

  reputation for massacring suspected civilian

  guerrilla collaborators and has killed hundreds of

  people so far this year.


  The United States has branded the AUC, the

  FARC and the ELN "terrorist" organizations.

  Owing its origins to cattle ranchers and drug

  bosses fighting back against extortion by leftist

  rebels, the AUC is the fastest-growing force in a

  37-year-old war which has claimed about

  40,000 mainly civilian lives in the past decade





  While the use of chainsaws and other macabre

  weapons by its members has made the AUC

  deeply feared, the organization has recently

  insisted it wants to assume a more political role

  and will avoid its past "excesses."


  In its communique, the AUC said it condemned

  a series of massacres carried out by some of its

  members in the southern province of Valle del

  Cauca over the past week. It said its fighters

  were not acting on orders of national



  "Not all of those killed were innocent, but nor

  were they all guilty, and even if they had been

  this action should be condemned," it said.


  The worst killing took place around the small

  village of Buga, in hilly cattle and farming country

  about 160 miles (250 km) southwest of Bogota.

  The local mayor told Reuters they separated 24

  men from the women, children and old people,

  and told them to run before shooting them to



  The army -- which human rights groups accuse

  of failing to break links of some of its men with

  the AUC -- said on Sunday it had captured 18

  paramilitaries, including nine from the area near

  Buga. Colombia's top human rights official wants

  soldiers from the area investigated to see

  whether they could have prevented the killings

  but failed to act.


  Copyright 2001 Reuters