Suspected rebels kill two Catholic priests in Colombia
August 15, 2005
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Suspected rebels killed two Catholic priests Monday, ambushing their car with gunfire and explosives as they drove down a country road in northeast Colombia, police said.
Two laborers in the vehicle were also killed in the attack near Teorama, 260 miles northeast of Bogota, Norte de Santander state police chief Gen. Hipolito Herrera told RCN television.
Herrera blamed the attack on Colombia's main rebel group, the 13,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Monsignor Fabian Marulanda, secretary-general of the church's policy-making Episcopal Conference, said it is unclear why the priests' vehicle was attacked. He said one possibility is that the FARC mistakenly believed the vehicle was carrying paramilitaries, which are far-right militia groups that fight against the rebels.
But it's also possible, Marulanda said, that the priests were specifically targeted and were lured to the area by the rebels.
"Naturally, the incident causes us great pain," Marulanda told reporters.
The Catholic Church has played an active role in mediation efforts during Colombia's war, which pits the FARC and another leftist rebel group against right-wing paramilitary factions and government forces.
But the clergy's peace efforts have come at a heavy price. An archbishop, a bishop, more than 50 priests and three nuns have been killed by suspected rebels or paramilitary fighters over the past 20 years, according government figures.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press