Colombian peasants 'killed by vigilantes'

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The Independent US

Colombian police are investigating reports that as many as 30 peasant farmers have been massacred by paramilitary gunmen.

Colombian police are investigating reports that as many as 30 peasant farmers have been massacred by paramilitary gunmen.

Witnesses and local reporters told authorities about the alleged killings near the village of Buga in the Cauca river valley, 155 miles south-west of Bogota on Wednesday.

The paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) has previously killed civilians suspected of aiding the leftist rebels who have been waging a 37-year war against the Colombian state. Despite President Andres Pastrana's efforts to negotiate an end to the war, violence has continued unabated across the country.

In northern Colombia, gunmen stopped vehicles travelling near the Caribbean Sea between the provincial capitals of Santa Marta and Riohacha and killed three counter-narcotics officers and three civilians, police said. In the nearby Great Marsh lagoon, the bodies of six fishermen kidnapped four days ago by suspected paramilitaries were found.

Eduardo Cifuentes, the government's Human Rights Ombudsman said: "This could really be the end of the negotiation process." (AP)

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