Youths Killed by Colombian Navy Had been ‘Machines of Warfare,’ Official Says

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombia’s protection minister stated Wednesday that a number of younger individuals have been amongst these killed in a current navy operation meant to focus on a violent armed group, an announcement that fueled deep outrage in a nation reeling from many years of warfare.

In an interview on W Radio, the minister, Diego Molano, stated that the younger individuals killed within the operation have been “younger combatants” who had been recruited and reworked into “machines of warfare” by prison actors.

However he declined repeatedly to disclose the ages of the lifeless, amid native media stories that a number of of these killed have been minors, together with a 9-year-old lady. Within the interview, Mr. Molano referred to as that data “illegitimate” and a part of a “political warfare to provide data that sought to delegitimize our navy.” On this system, the host learn out the names of these reported lifeless in native information stories.

The accusations immediately resonated in a nation scarred by many years of brutal inner warfare involving the U.S.-backed authorities, left-wing rebels, right-wing paramilitaries allied with the navy and highly effective drug cartels — preventing that incessantly included baby combatants and claimed many civilian casualties. Right this moment, the nation is split over a 2016 peace deal that sought to place an finish to that period, however has had solely restricted success.

On Wednesday morning, the Colombian navy introduced it had killed 12 individuals in a navy operation that focused the “prison construction” of an armed group run by Gentil Duarte, a former member of Colombia’s largest insurgent group, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The FARC signed a peace take care of the federal government in 2016, formally ending the warfare between the 2 sides. However some rebels, together with Mr. Duarte, deserted the peace deal and returned to arms.

Because the FARC has pulled out of huge swaths of territory, different violent teams have moved in, turning many communities into battlegrounds between the navy, previous and new insurgent teams, and paramilitaries. For a lot of in Colombia, the warfare has not ended.

President Iván Duque has been the topic of rising criticism that he’s not doing sufficient to cease the violence.

In late 2019, his former protection minister, Guillermo Botero, left his place after failing to reveal that a number of youngsters died throughout a navy raid on a prison group.

Within the radio interview, Mr. Molano stated that the operation, which occurred on March 2 within the division of Guaviare, fell inside the bounds of worldwide legislation. He blamed criminals, and the younger individuals themselves, for the deaths.

“We’re not speaking about younger individuals who didn’t know what they have been doing,” he stated of the lifeless.

“Who’s answerable for the recruitment, for changing them into machines of warfare?” he added. “It’s these organizations, not the nationwide military.”

These feedback drew fast criticism from a number of sectors of Colombian society, who stated that younger individuals recruited by armed teams must be handled as victims, not perpetrators.

The nation has been consumed for many years in a dialog about the way to take care of baby recruitment.

“They aren’t combatants however victims of warfare,” wrote Diego Cancino, a councilman in Bogotá, the capital, on Twitter. “Minister Diego Molano, you may’t justify the unjustifiable.”

Sofía Villamil contributed reporting.

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