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ELN Suspects in Colombia Massacre

COLOMBIA / 27 JUN 2011 BY JEN SOKATCH EN

An armed group killed eight villagers and wounded four others in a weekend raid on a bar in the southern department of Nariño, Colombian authorities announced.

According to reports, a gang of at least 12 armed men entered the establishment in the village of Villanueva, located not far from the Ecuadorian border, a few minutes before midnight on Saturday and, without a word of warning, opened fire on the patrons. The four wounded patrons were taken to the department capital for treatment.

The motive for the attack is still unknown, but authorities are investigating whether rebels from the National Liberation Army (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional - ELN) or drug traffickers are responsible. Villanueva does not have a history of massacres, authorities said, but well armed criminal groups are known to operate in the vicinity.

The ELN, an insurgent group that had faded from the prominence in recent years, has returned to the national scene in part because of its embrace of drug trafficking, which it had previously avoided. As was the case in the early 1980s with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), with whom the ELN has a budding alliance, the influx of revenue from drug sales has allowed the group to replenish its ranks.

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