Colombia: army officer detained in massacre of indigenous people

Colombia’s top prosecutorial office, the Fiscalía General, ordered the detention of army lieutenant Alberto Williams Echeverry as the presumed author of the Aug. 9, 2006 massacre of five members of the Awá indigenous people at Ricaurte, Nariño department. Investigators from the Fiscalía’s human rights department found that the killings were “false positives“—slain civilians reported as guerillas killed in battle. Other army personnel are said to be under investigation in the incident. (RCN Radio, Colombia, Oct. 17)

The massacre took place during a period of heavy conflict between government forces and FARC guerillas in the region, in which Awá communities came under bombardment, causing widespread displacement.

Ominously, the indictment comes just as the region has again become a war zone. At least two soldiers and two National Police officers were killed in battles with the FARC in Ricaurte and the village of Toribio in neighboring Cauca department Oct. 17. The government reports that at least 18 guerillas and soldiers were killed over the past week in Cauca and Nariño. (El Espectador, Bogotá, Colombia Reports, Oct. 18)

The Awá have evidently been targeted by both sides in Colombia’s civil war.

See our last post on Colombia and the guerilla movement.

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