Colombia fires 20 army officers over civilian deaths

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The Times’ Chris Kraul reports:

The Colombian Defense Ministry fired 20 army officers Wednesday, including three generals, in connection with the deaths of a dozen youths who allegedly were killed and falsely identified as guerrillas slain in combat. The firings revolve around the disappearance over the last year of youths from Bogota’s Soacha suburb, a sprawling working-class neighborhood rife with crime and unemployment. Their bodies were later found more than 200 miles northeast of Bogota, the capital, in the state of North Santander and tagged as guerrillas killed in combat. The youths were apparently promised work by shadowy recruiters and then disappeared without a trace, after saying little to their families other than they were taking well-paying jobs. The case highlights a human rights problem facing the Colombian military called ‘false positives’: the extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians by uniformed troops who then tally them as war dead to gain promotions or time off.

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-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City