Colombia Indigenous Leader Killed In Cauca Province

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staff
An indigenous spiritual leader has been killed in south-western Colombia amid mounting tension between his tribe and left-wing rebels.

Indigenous residents escort Colombian soldiers to deliver them to authorities in Caldono in the province of Cauca July 18, 2012. Colombian security forces clashed on Wednesday with indigenous activists who stormed a hill-top military base in the volatile south as critics lambasted President Juan Manuel Santos for failing to protect troops. An indigenous leader in a neighboring municipality told local media that residents had surrounded at least 30 soldiers after one person was killed at a checkpoint. REUTERS

An indigenous spiritual leader has been killed in south-western Colombia amid mounting tension between his tribe and left-wing rebels.

Lisandro Tenorio, a traditional healer of the Nasa tribe, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Sunday.

Members of his tribe said he had received death threats from Colombia's largest rebel group, the Farc.

The Nasa have demanded that the rebels and the Colombian security forces leave their land.

They say they have had enough of being caught in the middle of confrontations between the two sides.

Mr Tenorio's wife described how two men came to their cabin on Sunday. One shook Mr Tenorio's hand, while the other shot him in the head three times, she said.

Mr Tenorio had been the spiritual leader for the Nasa indigenous community of Lopez Adentro, in Cauca province, for more than 30 years.

Cauca province is a stronghold of the left-wing Farc guerrilla group. It is used by the rebels and criminal groups as a key corridor for drug smuggling.

The Nasa of Lopez Adentro say Mr Tenorio and his son had repeatedly been threatened by Farc rebels.

Rising tension

Last month, the Nasa demanded that all armed men leave their land, be they rebels, paramilitaries, police or army.

They dragged a group of soldiers from the army post they were guarding and also sent a delegation to nearby Farc camps to tell them they had two weeks to take their fight elsewhere.

The tribe also put three of its members who had joined the rebels on trial. The three were sentenced to a public whipping according to traditional Nasa law.

Tensions between the tribe and the rebels have since been running high, and the Nasa have reported repeated incursions of armed men into their territory.

About 15,000 members of the Nasa and other indigenous groups from the region are currently gathered in La Maria, in Cauca province, for a tribal meeting.

On Sunday, indigenous leaders met a government delegation to discuss the tribes' demands for a military pull-out.

The indigenous groups walked out after they were told their demand to negotiate directly with President Juan Manuel Santos would not be met.

Interior Minister Federico Renjifo said the government remained willing to talk to the indigenous groups, but that tangible progress would have to be made before the president would consider holding a meeting with them.