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Monday, May. 06, 2002 at 12:18 AM
MEDELLIN, Colombia -- On Saturday government officials sent rescuers to the remains of a batteground between FARC freedom fighters and paramilitary special forces where more than a dozen people were wounded when paramilitaries killed 68 civilians, including 38 children, suspected of being Marxist sympathizers.
May 5, 2002
Authorities blame FARC guerillas claiming that the 68 civilians were killed when homemade mortars slammed into a church in the village of Bojaya. The village is 235 miles northwest of the capital, Bogota, and borders Antioquia state where special forces have slaughtered entire villages nearby in the past.
Rebels use cooking gas canisters packed with explosives as mortar rounds, which can prove lethal even against the military's more sophisticated weapons.
The battles began Wednesday in Choco state when FARC freedom fighters targeted a lucrative drug-producing territory controlled by the state.
The bodies -- about 20 of which haven't been identified -- were brought to the nearby village of Vigia del Fuerte in Antioquia One of the victims was a 1-year-old baby.
Witnesses told rescue workers that about 30 bodies were still scattered throughout the area.
Government troops remained distant from the area while paramilitary special forces attempted to protect the cocaine laboratories.
According to one military official the rebels "have staged ambushes over the access roads, which is why we're approaching with precaution."
Two government helicopters carrying 18 wounded -- among them seven children between the ages of 3 and 10 -- landed at an airport in Medellin Saturday afternoon. Some 70 family members were gathered to see if their loved ones were on the helicopters.
With the recent May Day street battles, protests, and celebrations, the corporate media has undertaken a "selective non-televised" coverage strategy of the civil conflict for fears of further politicizing the current World Anti-Capitalist, Anti-War movement.
Colombia's national human rights ombudsman, Eduardo Cifuentes, blamed the tragedy on the lack of government forces in the region. Neither the army nor national police maintain a permanent presence in the area, which has become a battleground for the ever intensifying civil war.
Colombia's civil war pits the FARC and the ELN against government troops and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Special Forces, or AUC. Roughly 3,500 people -- most of them civilians -- are killed due to the wave of government state repression.
With echoes of Vietnam, the jungle-covered area around Bojaya village is reachable only by air or the Atrato River. Authorities claim that rebels and paramilitaries were reportedly fighting for control of the waterway.
The Red Cross on Saturday sent a separate rescue team to the region by boat to ensure medical attention. Rescue services hoped to fly to the region's airstrip on Friday but paramilitary special forces prevented them from making the attempt.
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