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Colombia to deploy elite forces after killing of indigenous leader

Update: October, 31/2019 - 11:17

BOGOTA — Colombia's government on Wednesday ordered the deployment of 2,500 elite troops to combat dissident FARC guerillas after an attack that killed an indigenous leader and four guards.

The country's main indigenous organisation for its part denounced the "bloodletting" of its people and called for a national demonstration.

President Ivan Duque accused guerrillas who rejected a historic 2016 peace deal with the government that ended a half-century of armed conflict of wanting to use "weapons to silence and terrorize indigenous communities."

In response, he announced the creation of an elite force of 2,500 troops that will have the mission of taking control of territory, "closing the drug trafficking routes" and "dismantling" the dissident organisation.

Leaders of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) meanwhile said its people were being "persecuted, murdered and massacred."

"We call all of Colombian society to stand up in defense of life, rights and territories," said Luis Fernando Arias, a top ONIC adviser, at a press conference in Bogota.

The indigenous group expects to march alongside unions, peasants and students on November 21 during a strike against the government's policies.

The ONIC will also seek an "extraordinary visit" from the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

The organisation wants to highlight its "situation of humanitarian, social and economic urgency," and called on Duque to "end the bloodletting" stemming from the indigenous communities rejecting drug traffickers' demands to take part in the illicit trade.

Community leader Nasa Cristina Bautista and four members of the indigenous guard were killed by rebels in an area of Cauca department in the southwest that is under indigenous jurisdiction.

ONIC says 123 indigenous people have been murdered since Duque came to power in August 2018.

The National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia says 123 native people have been murdered since August 2018. — AFP

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