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September 7, 2005

FARC Leader Says 'Kill Priests'

Topics: International News

_40677186_farc2_203ok_afp.jpgIt appears that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's top military chief, Jorge Briceno, has called for the killing of clergy. This follows last month's agreement by Colombia's President, Alvaro Uribe, to allow the Roman Catholic Church to mediate in the conflict with the country's left-wing rebel groups.

(...) According to Caracol News, "the death of Father Jesus Adrian Sanchez, which occurred Aug. 18 in (the southern province of) Tolima and which according to authorities can be attributed to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, is part of this group's offensive against the clergy."

(...)The order to murder clergy apparently came (from) Briceno. Colombian military intelligence officials report that the rationale for targeting clerics "was explained in a speech by Briceno ... that was taped by a fighter who deserted the FARC's ranks." Briceno purportedly said, "All of these clerics are agents of the enemy or propagators of a doctrine that numbs people's minds and makes them enemies of the guerrillas," before instructing his men to "kill all the clerics, without saying it was us."

The secretary-general of Colombia's Catholic Bishops Conference, Fabian Marulanda, said Briceno's threat "should be analyzed because it's not understood why that group would go after those who are trying to reach them to discuss peace."
Although Army commander Gen. Reynaldo Castellanos said the threat made sense since FARC guerrillas have "no respect" for the church, it's hard to know the truth in a country with a complex and often confusing political and military situation - there is more than one anti-government group in the country (the ELN also has a history of attacking churches). However, during a recent meeting military top officers told bishops that they had information that the FARC had declared clergy in Colombia to be "a military target." Over the past 20 years, more than 60 members of the clergy are thought to have been killed in the Columbian conflict, fueled by the drug trade and wars between paramilitary groups and the government.

Farc has been estimated to have as many as 16,000 fighters, and is financed largely by the drug trade.

Posted by Richard at September 7, 2005 6:55 AM



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