Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Cocaine battles leave at least 20 dead in Colombia


Intense fighting between rebels and paramilitary groups for control of the cocaine trade in the jungles of western Colombia left at least 20 outlawed fighters dead, with some officials saying 80 people were killed.

Meanwhile, in the southeastern part of the country, army troops attacked a convoy of boats ferrying fighters from the country's main leftist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, leaving at least a dozen of the rebels dead, armed forces chief General Carlos Alberto Ospina said on Friday.

Most of the rebels died from gunshot wounds or drowned after the boats sank in the Vaupes River, about 610km southeast of Bogota, Ospina said.

In the main fighting, General Mario Gutierrez, a police commander in the region, said on Friday that "early reports by the police indicate there were between 20 and 30 killed," in fighting on Wednesday and Thursday in the remote jungles 310km west of Bogota.

His information came from statements by paramilitary fighters who were injured in the fighting and were taken to the town of San Jose del Palmar for treatment, and accounts from a doctor and a nurse who were working with the paramilitaries, he said.

On Thursday, Federico Cuellar, a human rights official in the town, told the El Tiempo newspaper Web site that 80 fighters were killed, and said his accounts also came from injured fighters taken to San Jose.

It was not possible to immediately reconcile the conflicting figures.

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