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More than 2,500 children at risk in armed attacks between FARC and ELN dissidents

In the municipality of El Tarra there was an attack against the town’s military base 

Desde hace más de 50 años Colombia vive un conflicto interno entre fuerzas del orden público, paramilitares y guerrilla
Desde hace más de 50 años Colombia vive un conflicto interno entre fuerzas del orden público, paramilitares y guerrilla | Shutterstock

April 29, 2022 4:00pm

Updated: April 29, 2022 5:36pm

A minor, a civilian, and two military personnel were injured after an armed confrontation between guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and FARC dissidents in the Colombian municipality of El Tarra, Norte de Santander, where the community was celebrating a public event for Children's Day on Wednesday.

More than 2,500 children and their parents were at the site. When just a few minutes before the children were joyful, they ended up in a scene of terror, amidst bullets and loud explosions, according to local media reports.

"We were gathered to celebrate Children's Day. In a crossfire, unfortunately, a child and an adult were wounded," said the mayor of this municipality near the Venezuelan border, Yair Diaz Peñaranda.

A video posted on social media shows children lying on the ground trying to dodge bullets while a teacher tries to calm them down amid heavy gunfire.

In a statement, the Army claimed that the guerrilla groups attacked "the civilian population with rifle fire and explosives, despite the presence of children and adolescents."

The groups also attacked the military base located on the outskirts of the municipality, according to military sources.

The injured reported by the Army include a 14-year-old minor, an adult, a non-commissioned officer, and a soldier. The latter two are in serious condition and were transferred to Cúcuta, the departmental capital, where they are being treated.

The Army condemned what happened as a "clear example of the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law by these criminal groups, united to attack the civilian population and the security forces."

The incident occurred in the midst of the celebration of Children's Day, which is commemorated in Colombia in April, and which, ironically, advocates for the protection of minors in the country, reported Infobae.

"I completely reject the situation that occurred during the celebration of Children's Day, in which we gathered more than 2,500 minors," claimed the mayor of the municipality, Yair Diaz, in an interview with the Colombian radio station La W Radio.

The Ombudsman's Office also reacted to this act against children, condemning what happened and claiming that children cannot be the target of violence.

"We demand that the actions of illegal armed groups keep the civilian population on the sidelines, especially when it comes to children and adolescents. Illegal organizations must respect and apply International Humanitarian Law (IHL)," the entity said hours after the clashes.