Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Colombian soldiers under arrest for arming rebels

AP , BOGOTA, COLOMBIA

Two Colombian soldiers have been arrested for giving weapons to leftist rebels -- their main battlefield enemy -- in exchange for cocaine, the Attorney General's Office said on Friday.

The soldiers, in addition to being members of the Medellin-based 4th Brigade, belonged to a criminal ring that included fighters with the country's main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the prosecutors' office in a statement.

The statement did not say when the two were arrested, but an official said they were captured "in the past several weeks."

The soldiers face charges of conspiracy to commit crimes including the trafficking of arms and drugs, the statement said. At least six other people linked to the gang have also been arrested since early September, some of whom may be FARC members.

Four of those arrested -- not the soldiers -- were caught in late September in Antioquia state, where Medellin is located, in possession of 30kg of coca paste, which is used to make cocaine.

The investigation into the alleged criminal ring was begun in 2004 by the secret police agency DAS, according to documents by the DAS and the Attorney General's Office.

The soldiers, including some junior officers, were selling "camouflage uniforms, war materials, weapons, explosives" and other items to the rebels for money and drugs, according to an Attorney General's Office report on Oct. 25.

Local television station RCN first reported the case on Thursday night.

It was unclear why the government did not report the soldiers' arrests before now.

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