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Colombia Deploys Thousands of Peasant Soldiers to Battle Rebels, Paramilitaries

President Alvaro Uribe helped deploy the nation’s latest weapon in a nearly 40-year civil war, sending 10,000 peasant soldiers back to their villages Monday to confront rebels and paramilitary fighters. The soldiers, who completed three months of military training, were sent to 426 villages across this Andean nation. The government hopes their knowledge of the terrain and people of their home areas will help turn the tide in Colombia’s conflict, which kills some 3,500 people – most of them civilians – each year. The “soldados campesinos” have been trained in combat tactics and how to respect human rights. Some 5,000 peasant soldiers were trained and deployed earlier this year. Uribe, standing in a school soccer field in Guasca, urged the peasant soldiers to fight hard for their country. He denounced both the rebels and paramilitaries as outlaws who must be dealt with severely. “This is not the hour to administer the conflict,” Uribe said. “This is the hour to defeat terrorism.” Full Story

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