CARACAS, May 10 (Reuters) – A Venezuelan non-governmental organization said on Monday eight soldiers from the OPEC nation were being held by a faction of a Colombian rebel group that had issued a statement naming the officers, after fighting broke out along the countries’ shared border zone.
Javier Tarazona, director of the NGO Fundaredes, showed photos of two pages of a supposed communique from the 10th front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombian (FARC) rebels in which they gave the names of the soldiers calling them “prisoners of war.” The document is undated and is addressed to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Tarazona said in a video posted on his Twitter account that the soldiers had been with the FARC’s 10th Front since April 23 after an ambush at the border.
“We are aware of the statement,” said Cecilia Goin, spokesperson for the ICRC in Venezuela. She declined to make more comments, saying the ICRC’s humanitarian work is confidential.
Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Authorities in Caracas have reported fighting with illegal Colombian armed groups, which they do not identify, in Apure since March 23. At least a dozen Venezuelan soldiers have died, while the Colombian Migration Service has said that some 5,000 people had arrived after fleeing the confrontations in Venezuela.
Opposition critics say the fighters include dissident FARC guerrillas who reject a 2016 peace deal with the Colombian government. The government of President Nicolas Maduro calls them “terrorists.”
Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino has not given details of the cause of the clashes, but military specialists and NGOs working in the border area attribute the violence to various causes, such as fighting for control of drug trafficking runways.
Venezuela created a special military unit for the border zone while the government denies any links to Colombian guerrillas or drug trafficking groups. (Reporting by Anggy Polanco and Vivian Sequera; writing by Sarah Kinosian; editing by Richard Pullin)
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