Eight Dead In Feuding Colombian Rebel Shoot Out

Eight people have been killed in a gun attack in north-east Colombia.

 

Eight
Armed men on motorcycles arrived at a billiard hall in the village of El Tarra in Norte de Santander province and opened fire on those inside.

The region on the border with Venezuela has been hit by a feud between the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group and a break-away faction, the Popular Liberation Army (EPL).

Thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

The guerrilla group was founded in 1964 to fight against Colombia’s unequal distribution of land and riches, inspired by the Cuban revolution of 1959.

Over the decades, the group has attacked large landholders and multinational companies, and repeatedly blown up oil pipelines

To finance itself it has resorted to extortion, kidnappings and drug trafficking.

It has been strongest in rural areas
Colombia’s president-elect, Iván Duque, who will be sworn into office next week, condemned the attack on Twitter.
He wrote that justice and the rule of law had to reach “all corners of the country” and called on the authorities to catch those responsible.

Mr Duque was elected in June and one of his main campaign pledges was to increase security.

He has also expressed his opposition to peace talks between the ELN and the government saying he would make negotiations conditional on the ELN ceasing its attacks.

Monday’s incident happened in Catatumbo, an area with minimal police and army presence. It has been hard hit by the battle between the ELN and the EPL for control over drug trafficking routes to Venezuela.

Human rights groups say the conflict has led to tens of thousands of students missing out on class as schools temporarily close their doors because of the escalating violence.

Colombia’s main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), signed a peace agreement with the government in 2016 and some of its former fighters have since joined Congress.

But analysts say reaching a deal with the smaller ELN group could prove more difficult as it is less hierarchical and ideologically less flexible than the Farc.

In the meantime, the army has been deployed to Catatumbo to boost security.

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