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Soldiers guilty of Colombia ambush
Ten Colombian anti-drugs police officers were slain in the 2006 attack.
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2008 23:50 GMT
Carvajal said his soldiers thought they
were firing on Farc rebels [EPA]
A group of Colombian soldiers has been convicted of killing 10 police officers on an anti-drugs mission in a case highlighting corruption in the nation. The 15 soldiers, who were found guilty of aggravated homicide, had claimed that they thought the police were rebel fighters while officials initially said it was a "friendly fire" incident.
However, prosecutors said the men had been bribed by wealthy drug barons to carry out the killings.
 
They are seeking maximum sentences of up to 60 years in the case which shocked Colombia, the world's biggest cocaine exporter.
Deadly ambush
 
Prosecutors said Lieutenant-Colonel Byron Carvajal, leader of the soldiers, ordered the ambush in the western town of Jamundi in May 2006, where an informant tipped off the police that a cocaine haul had been stashed.
 
The soldiers opened fire despite the police shouting "don't shoot, we are police, we have families", witnesses said.
 
Carvajal, who was not at the scene, said his soldiers believed they were surprising rebels from the Farc group.
 
However, the presiding judge said Carvajal was guilty of issuing the orders and instructions for the killings.
 
Senior officials told AP they believed the men were protecting a major drug trafficker.
 
The convictions were secured despite allegations that a prosecutor offered to help the defence in exchange for more than $400,000, senior police officials told AP.
 
The United States has spent $5.5bn in mostly military aid to the country over the last seven years as it struggles to combat a bloody civil conflict between the security forces, Farc rebels and right-wing paramilitaries.
 
But US Democratic congressional members are blocking a free trade deal and have threatened to reduce aid over concerns that the Colombian army is abusing human rights.
Source:
Agencies
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