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Colombia’s largest guerrilla group must immediately cease its use of gas cylinder bombs and other indiscriminate weapons, Human Rights Watch said today.

In an attack using these weapons yesterday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) killed a 10-year old boy and injured more than 20 civilians, members of the Nasa indigenous group.

"The FARC-EP’s continued use of gas cylinder bombs shows this armed group’s flagrant disregard for lives of civilians," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "The FARC must immediately cease these horrific attacks, which violate the most basic principles of the laws of war."

Human Rights Watch said that gas cylinder bombs are impossible to aim with accuracy and, as a result, frequently strike civilian objects and cause avoidable civilian casualties. International humanitarian law requires that combatants be distinguished from noncombatants and that military objectives be distinguished from protected property or places. The FARC-EP’s use of gas cylinder bombs in civilian areas is thus a clear violation of international humanitarian law.

In addition to injuring and killing civilians, yesterday’s attack by the FARC-EP on the towns of Toribío and Jambaló in the Department of Cauca also destroyed numerous homes and a church vestry. Many members of the communities have been forced to leave as a result of the attacks, and there is a serious risk that they may become permanently displaced.

As much as 90 percent of the population of Toribío and Jambaló belongs to the Nasa indigenous group, which has received national and international awards for its peace and development initiatives. As with most indigenous groups in the country, the Nasa population has suffered from repeated attacks by armed groups in Colombia’s internal armed conflict.

“The conflict has had a devastating effect on indigenous populations, which are frequently caught in the middle of fighting between armed groups that wish to control their territory,” said Vivanco. “Indiscriminate attacks like the bombings in Toribío not only kill civilians, but also cause immeasurable damage to the indigenous communities as a whole.”

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