The brutal killing of two boys accused of shoplifting in Colombia has reignited fears of militant violence in the country five years after a peace deal between the government and revolutionary group FARC.
The boys, aged 12 and 18, were seen in videos posted online bound by the wrists after being detained by civilians in the remote town of Tibu, near the border with Venezuela.
They were taken away by armed men on motorcycles and were found dead by the side of the road later on Friday, 8 October, according to local reports. Video from the scene showed the youngest shot in the head with a sign around his neck saying "thieves".
The region’s police commander in Norte de Santander, Colonel Carlos Martínez, blamed the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and offered a reward of 100 million pesos, or about $27,000 USD, for their capture, according to El Pais.
In an interview with Caracol Radio, Mr Martinez ordered the arrest of three locals he said were complicit in the execution of the boys, who are believed to be from Venezuela.
"[They took] justice in their own hands," Mr Martinez reportedly said. "That’s what the authorities are for."
The civilians have denied any involvement, saying they called authorities multiple times but that they never arrived. According to reports of video, the armed civilian men said they would hand the children over to authorities.
Colombia’s ombudsman has launched an investigation, while Venezuela’s prosecutor general Tarek William Saab wrote an official request to Colombia’s government demanding answers in the murder of two apparent Venezuelan citizens.
Colombia president Iván Duque Márquez, currently in Washington DC on an official visit, said the government had continued to clash with armed forces in the region.
"This type of situation hurts a lot and more when it comes to such fratricidal acts, the forcefulness of the public force will remain in that area of the country," he said
Colombian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the double homicide.
"We urge the authorities to investigate these events. We call for respect for the life and protection of children," they said in a statement.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies