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Colombia massacre leaves six dead in likely drug trafficking battle

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Six men were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in a Colombian area known for cocaine trafficking, in an apparent confrontation between groups dedicated to the illegal drugs trade, an army official said on Tuesday.

The massacre took place on Monday in a rural area of Mapiripan, in southeastern Meta province, a region where criminal gangs frequently clash over trafficking, the commander of the army’s seventh brigade, General Jairo Alejandro Fuentes, told Reuters.

President Ivan Duque condemned the killings and ordered troops to the area to investigate.

In 2017, there were 10 massacres across Colombia that left 47 people dead, according to the Ministry of Defense.

After a 2016 peace agreement with the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) armed violence was curbed, but Marxist guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN), FARC dissidents and crime gangs – made up of right-wing paramilitaries – still fight for strategic drug-producing territories.

Drug trafficking continues to be a lucrative business that finances illegal armed groups. Colombia has some 209,000 hectares (516,450 acres) of coca crops and the potential to produce 921 tons of cocaine per year. It is considered one of the main suppliers of cocaine worldwide.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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