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At Least 12 Killed in Colombia

October 11, 1999

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Gunmen killed at least 12 men in a rural community in Colombia’s northwest, leaving their bound bodies strewn on a roadside in small groups, authorities said Monday.

The men were killed Sunday night after being hauled from their homes by an armed group, said William Galeano, the mayor of the ranching town of Heliconia in Antioquia state, 150 miles from Bogota.

``Nobody dares say what happened. Everyone is silent,″ Galeano said.

The massacre is the latest in a dirty war in which most of the victims are civilians suspected by Colombia’s leftist rebels or right-wing paramilitary groups of sympathizing with the enemy.

The bodies were found in groups of two and three by the side of the highway that links Heliconia, a town of 8,500 residents, with Medellin, the state capital. All died of gunshot wounds, Dr. Diego Colei of Heliconia’s hospital told Radionet radio.

Although no armed group was publicly blamed, state government sources said the location and method indicated that the killers were from landowner-financed paramilitary groups, who commit most of Colombia’s extra-judicial killings.

The army blamed leftist rebels on Monday for the weekend killings of at least a dozen men on various ranches in eastern Antioquia state, one of Colombia’s most violent regions. Guerrillas and paramilitary fighters have been vying for control of the area for years.

According to the federal human rights ombudsman, 847 civilians were killed in massacres in the first half of 1999, a 44 percent increase over the same period last year.

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