Colombia’s army chief fired three colonels on Friday in the case of 11
men who disappeared from a town near Bogotá and were found dead months
later in a war zone hundreds of miles away.
It remains unclear why the men disappeared from Soacha, a poor
district just south of the capital, though speculation has been rife
that they may have fallen victim to so-called extrajudicial executions.
rights groups allege that members of Colombia’s military have killed
civilians and presented them as rebels slain in combat.
month, The Associated Press obtained a report from the chief
prosecutor’s office that said 803 members of Colombia’s armed forces —
including 99 officers — were under investigation in such killings.
the Soacha men’s bodies were discovered in August and September in a
turbulent zone near the Venezuelan border, the local military commander
said nine had been killed in combat with leftist rebels of the National
Liberation Army, or ELN.
The army chief, Gen. Mario Montoya, said
he was removing the three colonels over serious indications of
wrongdoing. He did not elaborate, or accuse them of involvement in the
killings of the Soacha men, whose bodies were found in unmarked graves.
Montoya also said he was turning over evidence to civilian prosecutors.
identified the cashiered officers as Col. Santiago Herrera, chief of
staff of the Fifth Division, Col. Ruben Castro, commander of the 15th
Mobile Brigade, and Lt. Col. Gabriel Rincon, operations chief of the
The mother of one of the slain men, Luz Marina Bernal,
told the AP that the army “has the obligation of clarifying and
determining exactly what happened to these young men.”
the men were in their 20s. Journalists who have interviewed their
relatives have had trouble determining their occupations. (AP)