Colombia’s military committed “crimes against humanity” when it shot three people in the back and killed a man with a blow to the head during the March 1 raid on a guerilla camp in Ecuador, Quito’s Interior Minister Fernando Bustamante told the Gamavision TV news program. The forensic evidence showing that the three were shot in the back is “undeniable,” he said.
Lucia Morrett, a Mexican university student who survived the attack, said in April that she saw Colombian soldiers “shoot the wounded in the back.” Investigations also show that Ecuadoran citizen Franklin Aisalla died from a blow to the head while he was kneeling, Bustamante told reporters.
In Bogotá, armed forces commander Gen. Freddy Padilla denied that his soldiers committed any abuses during the operation. “I’m convinced that my troops acted in accordance” with the law, Padilla told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo to discuss Quito’s accusation.
Ecuador has asked Colombia for classified information to aid its investigation of the incident, but Bustamante said he thought it “improbable” that Colombia would cooperate. If it doesn’t, there are “other means to hold those that conducted this operation responsible,” Bustamante said, adding that Colombia “has the obligation to comply with international humanitarian law.” (AP, May 8)
Ecuador’s Defense Minister Javier Ponce also says there are “well-founded” reasons to believe the US aided Colombia’s air force in the raid. He said Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe needs to clarify what happened during the raid, claiming that the US government “was the first to congratulate him for violating our territorial sovereignty.” (AP, May 8)
Colombia meanwhile charged that FARC guerrillas fired five makeshift mortar rounds at army units from inside Ecuador April 2, and it said it would file a formal note of protest demanding better border security. One Colombian soldier was injured in the attack near the border town of Teteye. The mortar rounds were converted propane gas cylinders filled with explosives, a common weapon of the FARC, according to a Defense Ministry spokesman. A similar attack near Teteye in 2005 killed 25 soldiers, Colombia says. Colombia’s army commander, Gen. Mario Montoya, cited press reports quoting demobilized guerillas who said the FARC maintained 60 to 80 camps on the Ecuadoran side of the border. (LAT, April 27)
The Colombian armed forces claimed to have thwarted a FARC plot to attack the Defense Ministry in Bogotá after intercepting e-mail from guerilla commanders. (El Tiempo, May 9)