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Gunmen Kill 14 at Colombian Dance Hall

August 14, 1995| From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — Fourteen people died in a strife-torn region of northwest Colombia over the weekend when unidentified gunmen opened fire in a dance hall.

Authorities said they had no clues about who was responsible for the massacre Saturday night in Chigorodo, a town in the rural Uraba district. But they said it was probably connected to political violence that has plagued the region.

As young men and women, many of them workers in nearby banana fields, drank and danced at the Aracatazzo bar, assailants armed with assault rifles walked inside and opened fire.

"They didn't say a word. They just began shooting. Even the bar owner was killed," Col. Manuel Perez said in a phone interview from the army's 17th Brigade, which is investigating the massacre.

Gunmen were reportedly posted on the streets outside to kill anyone trying to escape. There was at least one survivor, a man who was wounded, according to radio reports. The man refused to talk to reporters. Perez said investigators were having trouble getting information because witnesses were afraid to talk.

Authorities suspected that either right-wing paramilitary groups, which target suspected guerrilla sympathizers, or leftist rebels were responsible for the killings, army officials said. Leftist rebels have been fighting the Colombian government for more than three decades.

In a report last year, the Andean Commission of Jurists, a human rights group, identified the Uraba district, near the Panamanian border, as one of the most violent in Colombia, with an average of three politically motivated killings per day.

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