Venezuela seeks UN help in clearing landmines near Colombian border – DW (English)

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Venezuela says many of its soldiers have been killed by landmines deployed by armed groups. A military offensive along the Colombian border has led to a humanitarian crisis in the area.

Venezuela announced on Sunday that it will ask the United Nations for aid in clearing landmines in the southeast of the country that Caracas says have been placed by Colombian armed groups.

The Venezuelan government is preparing “to ask for immediate emergency aid from the UN… to defuse minefields left by these illegal groups of murderers and drug traffickers from Colombia,” President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised broadcast.

Authorities said that 15 people — six Venezuelan soldiers and nine members of armed groups — were killed on Sunday.

Clashes between Venezuelan troops and armed groups have taken place near the border with Colombia since March 21 following a military offensive in Venezuela’s Apure state.

More than 30 people have been arrested and drugs, explosives, and weapons were seized since the fighting began, they added.

“We have dislodged (these groups) from several camps. They left a mined territory behind… We have lost several soldiers with these mines,” Maduro said on Sunday.

He also accused the groups of having ties to the Colombian army and the government. “They are dressed as guerrillas to serve the drug trafficking routes,” Maduro added.

Colombia blames FARC dissidents

Colombian President Ivan Duque, in turn, has accused Venezuela of sheltering members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, and the dissidents of the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.

FARC signed a historic peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, but some guerilla fighters refused to join the peace process and have continued fighting.

Maduro recently admitted that FARC dissidents could be responsible for the killing of civilians and clashes with Venezuelan armed forces in the border area.

Humanitarian crisis

More than 4,000 people have fled Venezuela since the fighting broke out, according to Colombian officials.

Human rights groups from both countries called on the UN earlier this week to appoint a special envoy to address the humanitarian crisis on the border.

The border between the two nations has been for years a center of drug trafficking and smuggling.

adi/aw (AFP, Reuters) 

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