Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia arrests three over killing of 10 farm workers

The coffins of dead farm workers are lined up during a funeral ceremony in Santa Rosa de Osos
Image caption The killing of the 10 farm workers was described by one local official as a "scene out of hell"

Colombian security forces have arrested three men they suspect of shooting dead 10 farm workers last week.

The killing was one of the deadliest targeted attacks in Colombia in years.

Police say the suspects belong to a criminal gang whose leader was arrested last month and who ordered the attack from behind bars.

They said the motive could be revenge for his recent capture or a deadly message to businessmen who have refused to pay the gang protection money.

The security forces arrested Oscar Dario Barrientos and two of his men in north-western Antioquia province.

'Jorge 18'

Police say they were the three men who approached the foreman of a farm in Santa Rosa de Osos last week and asked if the owner had been paying protection money.

In a scene which a local official described as "something out of hell", they then opened fire killing nine men and a woman who were harvesting fruit.

Police director Gen Jose Leon Riano said the attack had been ordered by a man known as "Jorge 18", the leader of a gang calling itself Los Renacentistas.

Gen Leon Riano said it was not yet clear whether "Jorge 18" had ordered the attack to avenge his capture in October or if it was in retaliation for the non-payment of protection money to his gang by the farm's owner.

The local mayor said there had been a rise in extortion in the area.

The Colombian government says criminal gangs are one of the main threats facing the nation and have declared its fight against them a key priority.

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