Teacher Killed in Colombia after Reports of Joint Army/Paramilitary Operations

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 23 April 2009

A 39-year-old school teacher has been shot dead by unidentified assassins in the Alto Naya region of Colombia in the latest in a series of attacks in the area. Reports from the 'Justice and Peace' Commission, a Catholic Human Rights group with a presence in Cauca department, where Alto Naya is located, says that for many months, soldiers including members of the British-trained High Mountain Battalion have been collaborating with a paramilitary death squad in the area and that human rights violations are widespread.

Claudia Fernandez Ramoz Camacho, a teacher at the school in the village of Rio Mina, was gunned down on April 19th though her killers were able to escape despite a heavy Army presence in the area. Unconfirmed reports from the very remote region also say that another four people may have been killed.

For many months the 'Justice and Peace' Commission (JPC) has been highlighting the situation in Naya where they say soldiers and paramilitaries are working together to terrorise the civilian population. According to a JPC letter sent to Colombia's Vice President, Francisco Santos, last year, soldiers had been telling local residents that the paramilitaries were on their way to "deal with them", soldiers have been seen talking with paramilitary members and troops have painted threatening graffiti in several villages with messages including "Those that are coming behind us are very angry" and "The Eagles are coming".

The 'Eagles' is a reference to the 'Black Eagles' paramilitary death squad that has been responsible for hundreds of killings and which human rights groups claim secretly works with the Army. Other graffiti painted by the soldiers has included the letters AUC the name of the national paramilitary alliance which the Colombian Government claims no longer exists.

As well as working with the paramilitaries, the soldiers, who are attached to the 2nd Mobile Brigade of the Colombian Army as well as the High Mountain Battalion, have looted homes, indiscriminately fired machine guns into houses and farms, forced people to flee the region and made direct threats against several community leaders and other residents. One local community leader, Isabelino Valencia, was told by troops that the paramilitaries would come and get him if he did not leave the region.

For previous articles about the situation in the region of Naya see:

March 2008: Bombing Injures 25 Civilians

March 2008: Afro-Colombian Communities Under Attack

March 2008: Paramilitary Alleges Army Involvement in Massacre

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