BOGOTA – Five soldiers were killed and two others wounded when they entered a FARC minefield in a rural area near Puerto Rico, a town in southern Colombia, a military commander said.
“Terrorists from the Teofilo Forero squad” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group planted the landmines, army 9th Brigade commander Gen. Henry William Torres said.
The soldiers died Friday night in the minefield, the brigade commander said.
“This is the common denominator that the terrorists are using, which, unfortunately, does not even give men the opportunity to fight and defend their lives,” the general said.
The wounded soldiers were taken to the hospital in San Vicente del Caguan, a city in Caqueta province.
Reinforcements were sent by land and air from the cities of Neiva, Florencia and San Vicente del Caguan “with the goal of achieving the neutralization of the terrorist unit” that planted the landmines, Torres said.
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 in a report released earlier this year.
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, according to the United Nations, have been planted in 31 of Colombia’s 32 provinces.
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.