Venezuelan defense minister: Border ambush kills 3 soldiers

November 5, 2018 GMT

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s government said Monday that it is fortifying a remote stretch of border with Colombia after three of its soldiers were killed in an ambush that also wounded 10 others.

The attack drew a rare moment of agreement between the two neighboring South American countries, whose relations have been strained by denunciations by Colombian authorities of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for leading his nation into an economic crisis that has caused masses to flee across the border into Colombia. 

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said a Colombian paramilitary group attacked Venezuelan soldiers Sunday in the state of Amazonas. The ambush was retaliation for Venezuela’s arrest hours earlier of nine people in the group from Colombia, he said.

Padrino Lopez didn’t identified the group, but said the attack was another example of how Colombia’s internal unrest has spilled across the border for 60 years, putting Venezuelans in danger.

Colombia’s government has signed a peace deal with the country’s largest guerrilla force, but other groups remain active and some renegades reject the peace deal. Right-wing paramilitary groups also have been active in Colombia.

The Colombian Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the attack on Venezuelan soldiers, calling it terrorism. One of the people Venezuela arrested was Colombian, Luis Felipe Ortega Bernal, a recognized leader of National Liberation Army, or ELN, Colombian officials said. 

“Colombia rejects terrorism and violence generated by organized armed groups such as the ELN,” the Foreign Ministry said, adding that Colombia will continue to fight the group. “The fight against terrorism is a duty of all the states.”