3 Soldiers die in rebel mine field in Colombia

(COLOMBIA) 11 July 2010 -Three soldiers were killed and one was wounded when they entered a FARC mine field near Puerto Rondon, a city in the Colombian province of Arauca, the army said.


The landmines exploded when the soldiers entered the field early Saturday. The mines were planted by the Alfonso Castellanos column of the 10th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group. Army troops have been battling the FARC, Colombia's oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, near where the landmines exploded. Since 1990, some 1,700 people have been killed by landmines planted by guerrillas and drug traffickers in Colombia. A total of 8,329 people were killed or wounded by landmines in Colombia between 1990 and March 2010, accounting for 10 percent of the world's landmine casualties during that period, the presidential program against landmines, or Paicma, said.
Colombia was second in the world last year in terms of casualties from landmines, with 777 people killed or wounded by the weapons, trailing only Afghanistan, which registered 992 casualties. Landmines have been planted in 31 of Colombia's 32 provinces, according to the United Nations. Up to 100,000 of the weapons are estimated to have been planted around the Andean nation, the great majority of them by leftist rebels seeking to inflict casualties on soldiers and protect coca plantations that supply their extensive drug trafficking operations.
Almost all of the weapons are "non-industrial" homemade mines manufactured in guerrilla camps at low cost. In May, police seized 1,053 landmines in Antioquia, a province in northwestern Colombia, that FARC guerrillas apparently planned to use in attacks. The landmines, which belonged to the FARC's 9th Front, were buried in a rural area near El Carmen de Viboral, a village in Antioquia. A landmine killed the commander of an army explosives disposal team that was clearing a mine field on May 17 in an area in Antioquia plagued by FARC attacks on the power grid. The FARC, which was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 to 17,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation. The leftist guerrilla group is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC's main means of financing its operations

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