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World

Nearly 5,000 indigenous Colombians trapped by fighting

  • Choco is home to nearly 90 percent of Colombia's indigenous and black population, and is the country's poorest department, according to the national statistics department.
23 Feb 2021

BOGOTA: Nearly 5,000 indigenous Colombians are trapped between guerrillas and drug traffickers fighting over territory in the country's northwest, a watchdog said Monday.

Some 4,740 members of the Moamia community in Colombia's Choco department bordering Panama have been cut off without food and other essentials since clashes erupted last Friday, government ombudsman Carlos Camargo said in a statement.

Some have fled, and dozens of families are hiding in their homes amid fresh fighting over lucrative trafficking routes between National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and a powerful drug gang known as the Gulf Clan.

Last Friday, a local woman was shot and killed in the crossfire, according to senator Feliciano Valencia, who represents indigenous people.

Camargo's office has been warning of the presence of armed men, and the danger they pose to local communities, since September 2019.

Choco is home to nearly 90 percent of Colombia's indigenous and black population, and is the country's poorest department, according to the national statistics department.

Indigenous people frequently get trapped in fighting between armed groups in remote parts of Colombia over which the government has battled to regain control since the signing of a peace deal with FARC guerrillas in 2016 ended decades of civil war.

The ELN is Colombia's last active armed rebel group, while the Gulf Clan controls the bulk of the country's cocaine production, using violence and intimidation to control trafficking routes.