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Colombia to investigate alleged child abuse by US military

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA: Colombian authorities said Tuesday they planned to investigate alleged sexual abuses of children by US contractors and military staff.

The claims, published in February by historian Renan Vega in a report on talks between the government and leftist FARC guerrillas in Cuba, claimed that 53 minors were sexually abused by US troops in the center of the South American country.

The US soldiers were also said to have filmed the acts and sold the tapes as pornographic material.

Cristina Plazas, who heads the Colombian Welfare Family Institute (ICBF), called for an “active search” of the girls and adolescents who were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the troops.

Vega’s piece was part of a set of 12 reports on the long-running conflict by historians of various political leanings, at the request of negotiators between the two parties.

He said the abuses took place in the towns of Melgar and Girardot.

In his report, Vega also claimed that in Melgar, a US contractor and a US sergeant raped a 12-year-old girl in 2007.

The Office of the Ombudsman, who monitors human rights in Colombia, rejected the accusations.

The agency asked to know how many of the cases have been investigated and the stage of any probes.

Tolemaida, one of the largest military bases in Colombia, is located near Melgar and Girardot. US troops and military contractors have access to the base.

Washington is heading the multi-billion-dollar Plan Colombia, a military and diplomatic aid initiative aimed at fighting drug trafficking and insurgencies.

Last month, the US Embassy in Bogota insisted it “takes very seriously any allegation of sexual misconduct by one of its officials.” (AFP)

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