Dissident factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia burned a vehicle of the British NGO The HALO Trust which was carrying four staff deployed for demining work in the central department of Meta, Colombian military official said Thursday.
The VII Infantry Brigade of the National Army of Colombia said in a statement that "the terrorist action" occurred on Wednesday in Santander village, part of Uribe municipality, where men from the 40th Front of the FARC dissident group stopped the vehicle and forced four people out before burning it.
Colombia's Directorate for Integrated Action against Anti-Personnel Mines (Descontamina Colombia) said in a statement that the men who set fire to the vehicle identified themselves as part of a FARC dissident faction, led under the alias command "Calarca."
The agency added that "they threatened the HALO Trust staff and told them that they did not want the presence of that organization in the Uribe and Mesetas municipalities."
Chief of Decontamina Colombia, Sergio Bueno Aguirre, condemned the incident for jeopardizing work carried out in 192 municipalities in 29 departments in the country and reducing humanitarian activities that benefit communities.
Decontamina Colombia contacted the organization to verify the condition of the HALO Trust staff, who are currently in the operations base.
It also contacted the commander of the Rapid Deployment Force to coordinate measures to guarantee the safety of the personnel and equipment of the trust.
Bueno added that HALO's demining operations in the area had been suspended.
The estimated number of antipersonnel mines in Meta is the highest in Colombia, with 8.4 million square meters contaminated, followed by Antioquia in the northwest.
Meta department ranks second for the number of victims with 1,136 deaths, while Antioquia comes first with 2,540.