Indians beheaded in Sierra Nevada

December 23, 2003

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Two Arhuaco Indians from northern Colombia have been found beheaded after being seized by right-wing paramilitaries. The tragedy came just 11 days after another killing, this time of an employee of the local Indian organisation. The killings occurred on the same mountain where a group of European and Israeli tourists were kidnapped by the ELN guerrilla army.

The Arhuaco, together with the related Kogi and Arsario tribes, live on a huge mountain called the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Despite the Indians' peaceful nature, for several decades the area has been a battleground between the army, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries that has seen the Indians caught in the crossfire. The lower slopes of the mountain have been colonised by settlers, many of them growing coca and heroin poppies for the drug trade.

Dozens of Indians have been killed in the quasi-civil war raging on their land. In February this year an Arsario village was bombarded for several days by the Colombian army, forcing the inhabitants to flee.

Sierra Nevada Indians