BOGOTA – More than 1,300 indigenous people have abandoned their homes in a Colombian village due to clashes between armed groups, a peace monitoring group reported on Friday.
They were forced to flee from Catru, an indigenous reservation in Alto Baudo, in the Choco Department on the border with Panama, according to the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP OAS).
The independent organization tweeted in Spanish that the forced displacement was caused by “clashes between illegal armed groups.”
“We demand an end to attacks against ethnic communities and we urge the authorities to protect the population of the territory,” it added.
Juan Carlos Ramirez, commander general of the Seventh Division of Colombia’s national army, said the military was “responding to the community’s call regarding alleged confrontations between illegals in the Catru indigenous reservation.”
“At this time troops from the Seventh Division of the Army and the Colombian Air Force carry out operations with the purpose of protecting the population that lives in the region,” he posted in Spanish on social media.
More than 10,000 people were displaced by armed conflict in the country and another 7,300 were confined in the first quarter of this year, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The report also stated that more than 19,500 people were affected between January and March by natural disasters and another 100 had been injured by landmines and other explosive devices.
In the community of Alto Baudo, also in the Choco Department, 2,055 people were forced to leave their homes in March due to clashes between armed groups.
The recent conflict came after the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) said on Thursday that ex-guerrilla Robert Hurtado was assassinated in Choco.
“Last night, at 11:00 pm, Robert Hurtado, a peace signatory, was assassinated,” it said in a statement in Spanish on social media.
“Armed men entered the Munguido community, on the San Juan coast (in Choco).
“He was 27 years old, he was a sawyer, he lived with his wife and three young children.”
The FARC has reported that 197 ex-combatants have been killed since a peace agreement was signed with the government in November 2016 after more than half a century of armed conflict in Colombia.
The UN warned in December that at least 77 ex-guerrillas were killed in Colombia in 2019, as well as 14 disappearances and 29 attempted homicides.
Last year was “the most violent year” for ex-FARC guerrillas who accepted the Colombian peace agreement, according to the organization.