At least 16 dead amid clashes between armed groups in Colombia's Arauca
They were fighting over control of illegal economies such as drug trafficking, Colombia's army said in a statement late on Sunday. The violence harks back to the mid 2000s, when the FARC and ELN fought each other in Arauca and the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure.
At least 16 people have been killed in Colombia's Arauca province amid fighting between illegal armed groups, the country's human rights ombudsman said on Monday, adding that 12 families had been displaced. Fighting broke out over the weekend in Arauca - which sits on the border with Venezuela - as members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) fought with dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who reject a 2016 peace deal. They were fighting over control of illegal economies such as drug trafficking, Colombia's army said in a statement late on Sunday.
The violence harks back to the mid 2000s, when the FARC and ELN fought each other in Arauca and the neighboring Venezuelan state of Apure. By the time fighting ceased in 2010, more than 58,000 people had been displaced in the province and at least 868 civilians had been killed, according to a report from advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which cited the government-run Colombian Victims' Unit.
Some 5,000 people fled Apure at the end of March last year amid clashes between Colombian armed groups and the Venezuelan military. So far, HRW has received reports of 24 deaths due to the violence, the group's senior investigator for the Americas Juan Pappier said in a message on Twitter, adding that there had also been forced displacements and kidnappings.
"We are very concerned about the fighting between the ELN and dissidents of the FARC's 10th front in Arauca and Apure," Pappier said. Colombia's President Ivan Duque convened a meeting of military and police leaders to assess the situation in Arauca and to take measures to address it.
"I have ordered that two battalions be deployed within the next 72 hours to help with the task of territorial control," Duque said in a video broadcast. Colombia's government accuses Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro of harboring FARC dissidents and ELN combatants, something Maduro has repeatedly denied.
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