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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Colombia in Uproar After Military Bombing of Drug Gang Kills at Least One Girl

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia—The death of at least one teenage girl in an aerial bombardment of a jungle camp operated by a narco-trafficking group has touched off outrage aimed at Colombia’s Defense Ministry, which has been under pressure to bring a range of armed groups to heel.

Military authorities on Wednesday declined to publicly identify the 12 people they say were killed on March 2 when the air force bombed a camp in southern Guaviare province used by a cocaine-smuggling group.

“This was an operation against narco-terrorists that are planning attacks against the population,” the defense minister, Diego Molano, said in an interview with W Radio.

The bombing comes as the administration of President Iván Duque has been under fire from New York-based Human Rights Watch and rural community organizations for its inability to stop violence directed by narco-trafficking gangs against civilians. In 2020, 133 community leaders were slain, up from 108 in 2019, a United Nations team that works in Colombia on these cases said.

The defense minister declined to say how many of those who died were children until medical examiners complete an investigation on the bodies that have been recovered. But he acknowledged in an interview with Semana magazine that one of those killed was a 16-year-old girl and that two of the five people captured in the military operation were also minors. The two children are now in the care of child-welfare services, an agency Mr. Molano once headed.

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