Five dead in an attack on Colombia-Ecuador border: authorities
Published: Dec 15, 2022 10:04 PM Updated: Dec 15, 2022 10:01 PM
A man walks with his dog along an empty street in Cali, Colombia on Saturday, during a curfew imposed by the government to help curb infections of COVID-19, as weekend partial lockdown takes effect in four Colombian cities. In recent weeks, the Colombian government has imposed, and then tightened a series of restrictions to stem a third wave of infections. Photo: AFP Cali, Colombia Photo: AFP

 Gunmen killed five people in southern Colombia on the border with Ecuador, authorities said on Wednesday.

Attackers on motorbikes opened fire indiscriminately at a group of eight people on Tuesday, said Putumayo department police chief colonel Jorge Salinas.

Five people died at the scene and the other three, including two women, were injured, Salinas told a local radio station.

The area of the attack was known to be frequented by drug addicts.

Police suspect a faction of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels called the Border Commandos to be behind the attack.

FARC guerrillas signed a peace treaty with the government in 2016 to end a half century of conflict with the state and create a political party.

But some dissidents refused to lay down their arms and continue to carry out attacks on the armed forces and civilians, while mostly funding their campaign through drug trafficking.

Armed groups throughout the country are fighting over territory and the lucrative drug trafficking trade.

Following the murders, Colombia President Gustavo Petro and his Ecuadoran counterpart Guillermo Lasso proposed joint operations along the shared 586-kilometer-long border in a Twitter exchange. Petro said these operations would target the "mafias that use the border as a drug trafficking route."

Petro has vowed to negotiate with armed groups and drug traffickers in a bid to achieve a "total peace" in a country that has suffered almost six decades of conflict.

Initial talks with these groups, including the rebel National Liberation Army, or ELN, have not so far resulted in a reduction in violence.

On Wednesday the ELN announced it was launching an "armed strike" in a poor region of northeastern Colombia beginning Thursday evening.

The rise in tensions comes at a poor time for Petro's government, which had announced early this week it had successfully concluded a first round of negotiations with the guerrillas - although no formal ceasefire was reached.

According to the Indepaz NGO, there have been 93 massacres in 2022 in Colombia, leaving scores of victims.