Former paramilitaries admit to cremating the bodies of some 150 of their victims in northern Colombia between 2000 and 2004, prosecutors told news agency AP.
According to Leonardo Cabana of the prosecutor general’s Justice and Peace unit, paramilitaries testified that “approximately 150” corpses “were thrown into ovens” made of bricks and cement.
“They used the practice to make their victims disappear without leaving a trace, primarily because of the large number of deaths there were in this area,” Cabana told AP.
The paramilitary commanders denied having thrown living victims in the ovens, “but we haven’t fully ruled out that possibility,” said the prosecutor.
Investigators located the remains of three ovens the paramilitaries said they used to cremate their victims in the Norte de Santander department. The ovens were originally designed for the production of panela, a traditional Colombian sweetener made of sugarcane.
The claims were initially made by paramilitary commander “El Iguano,” who led AUC death squads on the border with Venezuela, and demobilized in 2004. Other demobilized AUC members corroborated the claims. However, Cabana said there were no traces of DNA in these ovens that could prove the demobilized paramilitaries’ claims.
The death squads of “El Iguano” are suspected of the murder of 2,500 Colombians and the forced disappearance of another 600.