Bogota, Colombia- The Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman said that violent clashes between Colombia and Venezuela’s rebel groups have caused at least 16 deaths Say on Monday.
Sources told Al Jazeera that most of the people killed in the province of Arauca in eastern Colombia on Sunday are believed to be Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) Dissident and member of the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Some members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia refused 2016 peace agreement The demobilization of the organization ended 50 years of armed conflict in the country, and dissidents announced the re-arming in 2018. ELN is the largest in Colombia Remaining armed insurgent groups.
Late Sunday, the Colombian Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office Express “Since the confrontation between illegal armed groups puts civilians at serious risk, we are deeply concerned about the escalation of the armed conflict in Arauca.”
The office called on local authorities to be present and protect civilians in border areas, which has seen Increased violence Associated with armed groups since early 2021.
“In the past few hours, there have been homicides, threats, illegal detentions, mass displacement and forced displacement risks in border cities, especially in Tame, Fortul, Saravena and Arauquita,” it said.
The Colombian President’s Office has yet to announce the death toll caused by the violence on Sunday.
On Monday morning, Juan Carlos Villate, a government official in charge of human rights issues in Arauca, told the local W radio station, ” [of deaths] Can be increased to 50 inches. Willat said this was the worst violent incident he has seen in the area in the past 10 years.
At the same time, Etelivar Torres Vargas, the mayor of Arauca, said in a statement on Sunday that he “strongly opposed the violence”, saying it “directly caused shock.” , Fear and anxiety”. [among] Local residents”.
Colombian President Ivan Duque said that since the outbreak of violence, a meeting has been held with security officials. After the conflict, security reinforcements were sent to Arauca.
Defense Minister Diego Morano also said on Monday that another meeting will be held in Arauca in the afternoon to discuss how to best protect local residents and control the border area with Venezuela.
The Colombian government has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for harbouring FARC dissidents and National Liberation Army fighters in Colombia. Venezuela border area – Constantly criticizing Caracas deny.
Adam Isaacson, a researcher at the Latin American Think Tank Office in Washington, said the fighting may have broken out because of the control of Arauca, a very important strategic department that shares a long and uncontrolled border with Venezuela.
He told Al Jazeera: “Everything is happening from drugs to stealing cows to kidnapped people.” “Armed groups tax everything, including beer and food. In addition, Arauca has a lot of oil, which means that. Armed groups can blackmail a lot of extractive industries.”
Isaacson said that Arauca is a stronghold of ELN in Colombia. When he visited in 2019, he was informed that a non-aggressive armistice agreement between ELN and the FARC dissidents had been in place.
“By the end of last week, this non-aggression agreement was clearly over,” he said. “Why now? Maybe the former FARC has become stronger, especially the Tenth Front dissidents who insisted on opposing Venezuelan army last year, And now their influence is even greater. “
Human Rights Watch senior Americas researcher Juan Papier told Al Jazeera that the alliance between ELN and the Tenth Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia dissident group Martin Villa “seems to be breaking down.”
“We have received worrying reports of deaths, forced displacements and kidnappings. The authorities should take urgent measures to protect civilians and assist victims,” Papier told Al Jazeera.
“For many years, the conflict between the FARC and the National Liberation Army has tortured the people of Arauca and Apure. Since a new version of this conflict seems to have appeared, they cannot be left to their own equipment. [be coming] Live in the area. “
Despite this, Isaacson said that many questions about the violence on Sunday have not been answered.
“We don’t know which groups launched the offense, or what triggered the offense, or whether this is just the outbreak or the beginning of a new war,” he said. “But what is certain is that starting from last weekend, if the number of deaths and displacements we see is completely accurate, this will be one of the most serious humanitarian situations we have seen in Colombia in recent years.”