Land Mines Kill 5 Colombian Soldiers (Colombia)
BOGOTA ' Five Colombian soldiers were killed by anti-personnel mines planted by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas in a rural area of the northwestern province of Antioquia, military officials said.
The explosion occurred on Friday outside Yarumal, a town 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Bogota, while soldiers were carrying out a mission to track and deactivate the devices, the army's 4th Brigade said in a statement.
The victims, three non-commissioned officers and two enlisted men, belonged to a detachment responsible for deactivating land mines planted by FARC insurgents near the road linking Yarumal with the nearby town of Campamento.
The soldiers who died in the explosion were identified as Sgts. Hugo Alexander Villa Parra and Hiran Lopez Gonzalez, Corp. Andres Suarez Campos and troopers John Jairo Fonnegra and Marco Emilio Martinez.
Land mine casualty totals in Colombia ' the only country in Latin America where the devices are still being laid ' are the highest in the world, surpassing Cambodia and Afghanistan.
According to official figures, land mines can be found to a greater or lesser degree in rural areas outside more than half of the Andean nation's 1,100 municipalities.
The FARC has fought a decades-old guerrilla insurgency against a succession of Colombian governments.
Although they still carry out isolated attacks, the rebels have been pushed back into more and more remote jungle areas during the hard-line administration of U.S.-backed President Alvaro Uribe.
The rebels suffered a series of crushing blows last year, including the deaths of three top commanders and the rescue ' in an elaborate ruse by the Colombian military ' of its highest-value hostages.
Von: 02.04.2009, Latin American Herald Tribune, www.laht.com