3 army colonels fired in Colombia for killings
rahul | October 24, 2008 at 05:02 pmby
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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombia's army chief fired three colonels on Friday in the case of 11 men who disappeared from a Bogota suburb and were found dead months later in a war zone hundreds of miles away. It remains unclear why the men disappeared from Soacha, a poor district just south of the capital, though speculation has been rife that they may have fallen victim to so-called extrajudicial executions.
Human rights groups allege that members of Colombia's military have killed civilians and presented them as rebels slain in combat. Last month, The Associated Press obtained a report from the chief prosecutor's office that said 803 members of Colombia's armed forces _ including 99 officers _ were under investigation in such killings. After the Soacha men's bodies were discovered in August and September in a turbulent zone near the Venezuelan border, the local military commander said nine had been killed in combat with leftist rebels of the National Liberation Army, or ELN. The army chief, Gen. Mario Montoya, said he was removing the three colonels over serious indications of wrongdoing. He did not elaborate, or accuse them of involvement in the killings of the Soacha men, whose bodies were found in unmarked graves. Montoya also said he was turning over evidence to civilian prosecutors.
He identified the cashiered officers as Col. Santiago Herrera, chief of staff of the Fifth Division, Col. Ruben Castro, commander of the 15th Mobile Brigade, and Lt. Col. Gabriel Rincon, operations chief of the same unit. The mother of one of the slain men, Luz Marina Bernal, told the AP that the army «has the obligation of clarifying and determining exactly what happened to these young men. Most of the men were in their 20s. Journalists who have interviewed their relatives have had trouble determining their occupations. Associated Press writer Cesar Garcia contributed to this report.
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