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Colombian rebels admit killing 8 Indians

  • Story Highlights
  • Statement from rebel group FARC takes responsibility for slayings of 8 Indians
  • FARC says the victims were "executed" for helping Colombian government
  • Indians say FARC targets them because they want to stay out of armed struggle
  • Human Rights Watch says rebels tortured some Indians before killing them
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Marxist guerrillas admit they recently killed eight Indians whom the rebels accused of collaborating with the Colombian government, media outlets reported Tuesday.

In Bogota, Colombia, last week, Luis Evelis Andrade denounces the killings of Indians by FARC rebels.

In Bogota, Colombia, last week, Luis Evelis Andrade denounces the killings of Indians by FARC rebels.

Human rights organizations and a state governor last week had accused the the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, of killing at least 27 Awa Indians in southwest Colombia in the past two weeks.

The FARC issued a statement dated February 11 saying the guerrillas detained and "executed" eight people on February 6 in the town of Rio Bravo because the Indians were gathering information about the rebels to give to the Colombian military. The FARC statement was posted Tuesday by the New Colombia News Agency and Caracol Radio's Web site.

The statement said the guerrillas were not targeting indigenous populations but took the action "against people who independent of their race, religion, ethnicity, social condition etc. accepted money and put themselves at the service of the army in an area that is the object of military operations."

The FARC communication also urged the Indians not to be manipulated by government officials who say the guerrillas are out to harm indigenous populations.

"They know of our respect for the civil community," the statement said, adding that a government that "never has looked out for these indigenous communities and has plunged them into war can't be their defenders. They are their executioners!"

Last week, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called the FARC "executioners" for killing Indians.

"Let the world know: The Democratic Security [forces] protect the indigenous because it is for all Colombians," Uribe said. "And the FARC deceive the country, they assassinate the indigenous."

The governor of Narino state, Navarro Wolff, said last week the FARC had killed 10 Awa in one incident a few days earlier and 17 others the previous week.

Luis Evelis Andrade of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym ONIC, said the FARC had targeted the Awa because the Indians don't want to get involved in the armed struggle and refuse to reveal information on government troop actions.

Speaking on Caracol TV, ONIC said the FARC has abducted 120 Awa since February 4 and 44 Awa have been killed this year.

Others also shared their concern.

"We are very worried about the Awa community," said Monsignor Gustavo Giron Higuita, the bishop of the city of Tumaco. "It is a community that is pretty unprotected and that in the past five years has received a type of persecution by armed groups."

The Awa, he said, "are pacifist, want respect of their organization and want to regain their traditions. We have been accompanying them in this process, and that's why this hurts so much."

Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado ordered the nation's human rights commissioner to launch an investigation and take steps to help the Awa.

The Human Rights Watch organization said Wednesday that the guerrillas tortured some of the Awa before killing them with knives.

"These cruel killings violate the most basic principles of human decency and dignity," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "There is no possible excuse or justification for these horrific actions."

Monsignor Ruben Salazar Gomez, the president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, joined last week's chorus of criticism, calling the killings a "very grave ... crime the whole country should condemn."

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a release that group members have made numerous visits to Narino, which is one of Colombia's 32 departments, or states. Narino is in southwest Colombia, on the Pacific Ocean and the border with Ecuador.

The area has a heavy presence of various armed groups and Colombian military forces and has among the worst human rights conditions in Colombia, the human rights group said. The Awa territories have been particularly affected.

The Colombian government has issued a "risk report" warning that civilians in the region are in danger.

The FARC is said to have "confined" some villages, cutting them off from the outside world and not allowing anyone to enter or leave.

The FARC, the largest and oldest guerrilla group in Colombia, has been waging war against the government since the 1960s.

Security analysts say the FARC has about 9,000 to 12,000 armed guerillas and several thousand supporters, mostly in rural areas.

The guerrilla group operates mostly in Colombia but has carried out extortion, kidnappings, bombings and other activities in Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.

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