Colombian army general resigns over civilian deaths

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Left to right: Juan Manuel Santos, George W. Bush, Álvaro Uribe and Mario Montoya Uribe, in Bogotá, March 2007

General Mario Montoya resigned on Tuesday amid a widening scandal surrounding the Colombian armed forces. An investigation showed that the military personnel under his command had been inflating their successess against rebels by killing innocent civilians and claiming the bodies as enemy insurgents killed.

Montaya is the highest-ranking official to lose his job over the scandal, which last week forced President Álvaro Uribe to dismiss 20 officers from the army's leadership corps.

In addition to the recent deaths of 11 young men from the slums near Bogotá that are at the heart of the scandal, prosecutors are investigating allegations that 1,015 civilians had been killed outside combat since 2002, when Uribe intensified the long war against two leftist insurgencies, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The resignation comes as Uribe faces increased criticism over Colombia's human rights record from international human rights groups and from Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

Uribe had been a close ally of the United States—he received training in his early military career in the United States—and a close ally in the war on terror.