This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (U) On the night of April 10 in the municipality of
Cajamarca, Tolima department, soldiers from the Pijoas
Battalion of the Colombian Army's Sixth Brigade killed five
civilians -- including a 6-month-old infant -- who soldiers
mistook in the dark for FARC guerrillas. Cajamarca is an
area with high levels of guerrilla activity, and at the time
of the shooting the Army was engaged in an operation against
the FARC's 21st and 50th Fronts, which operate in the region.
According to the military, the civilians, who were spotted
on a rural highway, refused soldiers' orders to halt and were
shot after they began to run.
2. (U) On April 11, Army Commander General Martin Orlando
Carreno and Fifth Division Commander Brigadier General Hernan
Alonso Ortiz arrived at the scene, as did prosecutors and
criminal investigators from the Prosecutor General's Office
("Fiscalia") and local representatives of the Office of the
Human Rights Ombudsman ("Defensoria"). The military justice
system also has begun an investigation of the incident. That
same day, Armed Forces Commander General Carlos Alberto
Ospina publicly acknowledged military responsibility for the
deaths and offered condolences to the victims' family.
3. (C) Comment: The Army's quick acknowledgement of
responsibility for this tragedy stands in sharp contrast to
the Air Force's obfuscation and procrastination in the
aftermath of the 1998 bombing of the village of Santo
Domingo, Arauca department, an incident that remains a
painful human rights thorn in the GOC's side. So far, the
military's reaction to this case is reminiscent of its
response to the August 2000 Pueblo Rico massacre, in which
soldiers accidentally shot six children during combat with
National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in Antioquia
department. The Army's transparency in that case is the
primary reason the tragedy is now almost forgotten, and the
military appears -- wisely -- to be using its successful
management of that case as a useful precedent. Embassy will
continue to follow developments in the military and civilian
investigations of this latest incident. End comment.