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Colombia is asked to probe slayings of Indians in Narino state

Rights groups and the governor say more than a dozen members of the indigenous Awa community were abducted and that at least 8 were killed. Some suspect the FARC.

February 11, 2009|Chris Kraul

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA — Human rights groups Tuesday called on the Colombian government to investigate the disappearance and slayings of members of an indigenous community in southwestern Colombia.

Seventeen Awa Indians were killed after being led from their settlement in Narino state last week by unidentified armed groups, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and Human Rights Watch in New York.

"These cruel killings violate the most basic principles of human decency and dignity," Human Rights Watch Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco said in a statement.

Colombia's largest indigenous association and Narino Gov. Antonio Navarro Wolff said 18 members of the community, including several children, were bound and led from their settlement Feb. 4 and that at least eight were later found dead.

It was unclear Tuesday night which of several armed groups operating in Narino was responsible for the slayings and disappearances. Local news media said the victims were killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in retaliation for collaborating with the Colombian army.

Narino state has become one of Colombia's most violent in recent years as leftist guerrillas, militias, drug traffickers and the military vie for control of an area used for cocaine trafficking and shipments.

Caught in the middle are several indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities that have been forced off their lands in increasing numbers, UNHCR spokeswoman Marie-Helene Verney said.

Since 2006, Narino has led Colombia in displaced residents, accounting for about 10% of the 300,000 people who became internal refugees last year, Verney said.

Details of the incident were still sketchy because of the remote location, bad weather and the presence of land mines placed by the FARC.

Numbering about 21,000, the Awa is the largest indigenous community in Narino and one of 87 Indian groups in Colombia.


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