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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BOGOTA11382 2006-12-20 21:12:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

COLMIL CASUALTIES: COMBAT, MINES, AND DISEASE

Tags:   PGOV PREL PTER MARR CO 
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1. (C) In 2005, 1,058 COLMIL personnel died from combat and
other causes (death rate of 0.4 percent). Of this total, 541
were killed in combat or by mines, almost all by the FARC,
and 517 died in accidents or other causes. Over 1,700 were
wounded (0.7 percent). Land mines are a growing hazard,
accounting for 40 percent of combat deaths and 55 percent of
combat injuries. Leishmaniasis disease also plagues forces
in jungle zones, afflicting 7,600 soldiers this year (4
percent of the COLAR) for 2-3 month periods. End Summary.



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DEATHS: Rates Declining


--------------------------





2. (C) According to the COLMIL's Division of Occupational
Health, 1,058 members of Colombia's roughly 252,000 armed
forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force) died in 2005, about 0.4
percent, or one in every 250 personnel. Terrorist
engagements mostly with the FARC, were responsible for 541
of the deaths. Land mines caused about 40 percent of combat
deaths. Over the past ten years the overall death rate has
fluctuated between 0.6 percent (1998) and 0.4 percent (2004).
Rates usually run higher in the first half of each year; at
mid-2006 the toll was 648 deaths (0.26 percent).



3. (C) Non-combat deaths are now on a par with combat
deaths. They are largely due to accidents (about 45
percent), homicide (30 percent), suicide (15 percent), and
natural causes (10 percent). The relative growth in combat
deaths reflects increased operations as offensive units enter
FARC strongholds where the FARC defends its coca fields with
snipers, ambushes, and mine fields.



--------------------------


INJURIES: Accidents Waning


--------------------------





4. (C) 1,765 members (0.7 percent) of the armed forces were
wounded in 2005, one in every 140 persons. This injury rate
is below the ten-year average of 0.9 percent, and only half
of its peak of 1.5 percent in 1998. Non-combat injuries,
mainly caused by accidents, have declined sharply from a peak
of one in every 100 members in 1998 to one in 335 in 2005,
due to better training. Injuries were once mainly outside
combat (67 percent in the late 1990s), but combat is now the
major cause (around 55 percent since 2002).



--------------------------


LAND MINES: Higher Toll


--------------------------





5. (C) Mines and explosives killed 213 service members and
wounded 548 in 2005, about 55 percent of combat injuries.
Those numbers are on the rise in 2006, reaching 123 killed
and 370 wounded at mid-year. The FARC plants mines for
tactical defense, as a protective belt around coca fields,
and for confinement and control of rural populations. The
COLMIL is increasingly exposed to this weapon as it
penetrates guerrilla territory. Departments with highest
casualties from mines in 2003-6 are Antioquia (20 percent of
all casualties), Meta (15 percent), Caqueta (13 percent), N.
Santander (9 percent), Tolima (8 percent), Arauca (7
percent), Cauca (7 percent), and Putumayo (5 percent). These
are front line areas where COLAR deploys its professional
soldiers. Even when not fatal, mine injuries often involve
losses of limbs, incapacitating victims from further military
action.



--------------------------


ILLNESS: Leishmaniasis Scourge


--------------------------





6. (C) A disease endemic to Colombia's jungles is cutaneous
leishmaniasis, borne by sand flies whose bites create skin
sores and infect organs. The disease is fatal if untreated.
Treatment involves 2-3 months of drug therapy and bed care,
and a person can contract the illness multiple times. As of
mid-November 2006, the COLAR alone has logged more than 7,600
cases, equivalent to one in every 27 soldiers. If each
soldier is out of duty for three months, then on average one
percent of the COLAR is incapacitated by the disease at any
given time.



7. (C) Leishmaniasis is most prevalent in the jungle
departments of Meta (30 percent of 2006 cases), Caqueta (24
percent), and Guaviare (11 percent). These areas comprise
the COLMIL's main effort in the fight against the FARC,
meaning the disease afflicts its most seasoned and elite
offensive forces. It takes a heavier toll on the FARC,
however, who live full-time in jungle camps, and whose
medicine supply lines are long (cross-border) and can be
disrupted by COLMIL action.



--------------------------


COLAR Bears Brunt


--------------------------





8. (C) Military deaths are almost all within the Army (90
percent), which is the largest branch (83 percent of total
forces) and has the highest combat mortality rate. In 2005,
per 10,000 COLAR troops, 45 died from all causes, 74 were
injured from all causes, and 368 had leishmaniasis (using '06
data as a proxy). In sum, 487 persons, or nearly 5 percent,
were disabled from action, either temporarily or permanently.





--------------------------



--------------------------


Table 1: Death Rates, 2000-2006 (percent of personnel)
Colombian Armed Forces -- COLAR, COLNAV, COLAF


--------------------------



--------------------------


'00 '01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06*
--- --- --- --- --- ---

--------------------------


Combat KIAs .17 .17 .18 .16 .12 .13 .08
Mines / IEDs .01 .02 .08 .07 .06 .08 .05

-> Combat total .18 .18 .26 .23 .19 .22 .13


Accidents .09 .10 .12 .10 .09 .10 .05
Homicide .08 .10 .08 .09 .06 .04 .03
Suicide .04 .04 .04 .05 .04 .04 .02
Natural causes .02 .02 .02 .03 .03 .03 .02

-> Non-combat .23 .26 .25 .27 .21 .20 .13


==> Total deaths .41 .44 .51 .50 .40 .42 .26

* 1/1 - 7/13/06
(Note: sums are correct; discrepancies due to rounding.)




--------------------------



--------------------------


Table 2: Injury Rates, 2000-2006 (percent of personnel)
Colombian Armed Forces -- COLAR, COLNAV, COLAF


--------------------------



--------------------------


'00 '01 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06*
--- --- --- --- --- ---

--------------------------



Mines/explosives .07 .07 .21 .24 .18 .22 .15
Wounded in action .26 .27 .31 .27 .22 .18 .11

-> Combat injuries .33 .34 .52 .51 .40 .40 .26


Accident/ firearm .13 .11 .13 .15 .08 .09 .04
Accident/ transit .13 .14 .17 .15 .08 .07 .04
Accident/ work .17 .13 .06 .09 .08 .07 .01
Att. hom/suicide .06 .04 .02 .04 .03 .04 .03
Other causes .10 .07 .06 .07 .05 .05 .03

-> Non-combat .60 .48 .44 .51 .32 .30 .16


==>Total injuries .93 .82 .96 1.01 .72 .70 .42

* 1/1 - 7/13/06
(Note: sums are correct; discrepancies due to rounding.)


WOOD