Le Pays De France - Venezuela says eight civilians killed by armed groups

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Venezuela says eight civilians killed by armed groups
Venezuela says eight civilians killed by armed groups

Venezuela says eight civilians killed by armed groups

Eight civilians were killed by armed groups in recent days in Venezuela's restive southwest region that borders Colombia, the country's defense minister said Friday.

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Vladimir Padrino also said that nine "terrorists" had been killed and 56 captured in military operations in Apure state without the loss of "one single" soldier.

"Unfortunately, last week we received news of eight civilian deaths," Padrino said in a press conference.

He also played a video denouncing the use of "improvised" land mines by armed groups, but did not say if they were the cause of the civilian deaths.

The military operations were aimed at expelling Colombian gangs the government describes as "armed drug-trafficking terrorists."

Left-wing Colombian rebels freely cross the porous 2,000-kilometer border between the two countries.

Bogota accuses Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro of providing shelter for dissidents of the disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and militants belonging to the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The two groups are among numerous armed militants battling for control of drug-trafficking routes through Colombia.

Caracas denies the accusations.

Padrino said authorities seized 1,200 kilograms of cocaine and 800 kilograms of marihuana, dismantled 16 camps and confiscated three airplanes and numerous assault rifles in the operations.

In March 2021, 16 soldiers died in clashes between the Venezuelan military and Colombian rebels that also left thousands of civilians displaced.

Javier Tarazona, a Venezuelan activist from an NGO that reports on such clashes and accuses the government of links to FARC dissidents, has been held since July 2021.

On Thursday, Colombian authorities said four people traveling in a truck close to the border were killed by attackers on motorcycles.

The victims were themselves armed but seemingly did not have time to react to the attack. Authorities are yet to determine who were the perpetrators and victims of the attack.