efe-epaCaracas

Six people were killed Saturday in clashes between the Venezuelan army and an armed group in the western state of Tachira that borders on Colombia, during military drills being carried out in this country, Major General Jesus Suarez Chourio reported.

"We were engaged in surveillance, patrolling and shielding the Venezuelan border. On this patrol we came upon a violent group called Los Rastrojos. They started the clash and as a result, six were killed," Suarez Chourio said in a statement on state channel VTV.

He said that also in the fray "a citizen" was captured who is contributing "valuable information to explain the incident and find out what connections it might have had with violent incidents here in Venezuela."

The criminal gang Los Rastrojos first appeared in Colombian territory after the dismantling of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

He said the group had munitions and even some Colombian army uniforms.

During the confrontation Capt. Jose Montilla Romero had his thumb wounded, while Alcides Rafael Subero got a wound in the gluteus.

Both are in stable condition, and the search goes on for the gang members who fled the scene.

The Venezuelan government constantly says there are "Colombian paramilitaries" operating in this country, while the border between the two nations has long been an open channel for organized crime.

For his part, Suarez Chourio noted that military exercises on the border have had "excellent results."

"We have seen how well prepared the army is during these military exercises, which aim to put all its power at the service of the territorial defense system," he said.

Venezuela was engaged in war games Saturday under orders from President Nicolas Maduro, after his US counterpart Donald Trump said last Aug. 11 that he was "not going to rule out a military option" against the South American nation.

At the same time Maduro is carrying out "anti-imperialist" mobilizations in several states of the country, including Anzoategui, Monagas, Sucre, Zulia, Falcon, Apure, Trujillo, Capital District and others.