Nomads killed, others forced to flee as fighting engulfs them

December 30, 2005

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Two Nukak Indians have been killed after being caught in the crossfire of Colombia's civil war. Another sixty have been forced to flee their remote forest home.

The Nukak's land – a remote part of the Amazon basin in south-east Colombia – has been occupied by an unholy mix of Colombian peasants growing coca for the cocaine trade, paramilitary groups, a left-wing guerrilla army and the Colombian military.

The Nukak's territory was secured after a long international campaign led by Survival. In recent years, however, they have been caught up in the quasi-civil war raging in rural Colombia, as poor Colombians fleeing a government crackdown on coca cultivation have spread throughout the Indians' rainforest home.

The remoteness of the Nukak's territory has made it an attractive hiding place, but with the coca growers have come the other actors in the long-standing violence of Colombia's drugs war.

Only 400 Nukak are now thought to survive in the Guaviare and Inírida river basins, down from around 1,000 a decade ago. The Nukak are part of the larger Makú family, a group of hunter-gatherer Indians who are highly nomadic, living in the very interior of the rainforest.