Colombia’s Ombudsman announced on Tuesday that paramilitary successor groups are active in approximately 15% of the country’s national territory, spread out over 27 of 32 states.
The presence of these groups has been registered in some 168 municipalities throughout the country, as the Ombudsman tweeted Tuesday.
The criminal organizations are the successor groups of the infamous paramilitary organization known as the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC), which supposedly demobilized from 2003-2006 and was responsible for massive atrocities against civilians.
According to the Ombudsman, three of these neo-paramilitary groups collectively had approximately half the number of members as the FARC guerrilla group when the estimate was made back in September.
The Urabeños, called the Usuga Clan by the government, form the largest group at 2,650 members.
The Ombudsman issued a warning over the rise in child sex exploitation and human trafficking, while also calling on the authorities to strengthen their operations to dismantle the criminal structures.
The Ombudsman noted a recent attack from the Urabeños — officially called ” The Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces” — in the southwestern state of Nariño, in which a mother was shot dead in front of her six children, who were then relocated to a different state.
The AUC, led by the Castaño brothers, was perhaps the most brutal and violent armed group in Colombia’s civil war. The paramilitary organization had over 30,000 fighters at its height during the years 1997 to 2006. The group was a union of most of the paramilitary organizations operating in the country.
- Defensoria advierte presencia de “bandas criminales” en 168 municipios de 27 departamentos (Ombudsman’s Office)
- Ombudsman’s Twitter feed