Hundreds of terrorised people from the region of Naya, Cauca, have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge from a wave of paramilitary violence that has crucified their communities this Easter and killed 33 of their friends and neighbours. They come with stories of chain saws, shootings and hangings carried out by a paramilitary unit that entered their region in the middle of last week.
With each passing day, the number of paramilitary victims has increased. On 15 April 2001, the People1s Defender announced that the number of people murdered by this armed group had reached 33.
The paramilitary strike began on Wednesday at 2:30 in the afternoon in the hamlet of Rio Mina, Naya. Some 500 hooded gunmen arrived, dragged several people from their homes and shot them in the back of the head. One hour later, they set up a base in the hamlet of Patio Bonito, where they are said to have murdered all the members of one family.
Some time later they went on to Palo Seco where they dragged a further five campesinos from their houses. Witnesses who managed to hide themselves saw the paramilitaries torturing their neighbours and then cutting their throats. They heard the screams.
An hour and a half later the ‘paras’ stopped in Alto Serrano where they entered the home of two campesinos and shot them in the back of the head.
They then entered the villages of El Crucero, La Playa and El Ceral, list in hand, accusing the inhabitants of supporting the guerrillas. The number of victims rose to 33 as they mercilessly summoned their victims, including a number of children, and slaughtered them in front of family and friends.
More than 500 terrorised people, mainly campesinos and indigenous people, have fled their homes following this latest series of atrocities and are now seeking refuge in churches, schools and towns in other parts of the region.
Traumatised witnesses to the violence are relating what they have seen:
"We heard shooting all around", said a 28-year-old indigenous woman who managed to survive. "My friends were shouting that we did not belong to any guerrilla group, but these savages shot them in the head and then hung them."
"They cut open one woman’s stomach with a chain saw" said another witness.
Liz Atherton, Colombia Peace Association