Colombian Officials Investigating 10 Colombian Soldiers for Posing as Guerrilla and Intimidating Civilians
On September 11, Boca del Manso sector in the Colombian municipality of Tierralta was besieged when a group of masked men entered the community around midday, threatening and harassing the civilian population, including children and pregnant women.
Photo: Screenshot from video of the incident in Tierralta shared widely on social media.
When video of the incident was initially shared online, it was widely believed that the men donning typical guerrilla attire were ex-FARC dissidents, but it later came to light that they were in fact members of Colombian Army, belonging to Infantry Battalion No. 33 Junín.
The truth began to surface after an army unit was dispatched to provide security to the inhabitants of this sector within the department of Córdoba and the officers discovered indications that it was their own soldiers who had orchestrated the intimidation campaign, which included one allegation of sexual assault.
In a public address to an outraged nation, General Luis Mauricio Ospina, head of the Colombian army, revealed that the 10 soldiers involved in the incident have been stripped of their duty and will face an investigation and any appropriate sanctions imposed by the offices of the attorney general, national prosecutor, and ombudsman, according to officials.
When the committee of officials flew into the area to begin their fact-finding investigation and meet with members of the community, their helicopter was attacked by gunfire that hit the aircraft’s fuel tank and forced the pilot to divert course. The 20 crew members were unharmed and, a few hours later, the armed group Clan del Golfo claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The urgent acts will be advanced in spite of the obstacles that different sectors want to put in the way of this investigation,” said Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa while condemning the allegations as reprehensible. “We have already requested that 30 soldiers, two non-commissioned officers and an officer of the Eleventh Brigade of the Infantry Battalion Number 83 be interrogated by the attorney general’s office.”
Army members have remained in the area throughout the week to safeguard the community as the investigation continues.
The most serious allegation of sexual assault, which Ombudsman Carlos Camargo Assis has confirmed is being investigated, was supported by an interview aired by local W Radio with a person said to be a member of the attacked community whose name was not revealed during the broadcast.
“The army arrived posing as guerrillas, not like the National Army,” said the main on air. “They threw us to the ground and threatened us. They tried to rape an indigenous woman. They stole silver, jewelry, [from] stores.”