A shooting caused panic in a small Colombian town

Shots called in El Tara, a small town in northern Colombia, on the sidelines of Children’s Day activities on April 27. It caused panic among the participants, most of whom were children, and injured four people, including two civilians. The authorities accused the gunmen of being behind the shooting. In an interview with our editorial team, the mothers said that violence is frequent in the region, undermined by armed groups and drug smuggling.

El Tarra is a small town in the Norte de Santander province, on the border with Venezuela. On April 27, activities were organized in a multi-sport gymnasium in the city, to celebrate “Children’s Day”. About 3,000 people participated, including 2,500 children. Shots began ringing around 4:30 p.m., according to two women interviewed by the editorial staff, who wished to remain anonymous.

“I was afraid, because you never know how it could end”

Gloria (not her real name) was there with her 11-year-old daughter:

Once someone told me there was shooting, but I didn’t notice it because of the music. I heard them only after that. With my daughter we hid under the podium to protect ourselves until the end of the shooting. I had the impression that the shots were too close, but I didn’t see any armed men. It was chaos: there were screams, mothers looking everywhere for their children … I was afraid, because you never know how it could end.

A man I knew who was near me was shot in the leg. A 14-year-old girl was also slightly injured. Then they were taken to a health center.

In the video below, we see a man holding a girl in his arms: she’s the injured teen, according to Gloria.

Video filmed at a gym in El Tara, Colombia, on April 27: At 0’16, a man holds the injured teen in his arms.

And in another video – following the first – a woman laments: “Daughter, she was shot here, Lord!” In these two videos we also see children running, we hear screaming and screaming and a woman shouting into a megaphone: “Please stop shooting, there are children!” On the other hand, we don’t hear the footage in these videos.

Video filmed at the multi-activity gym in El Tarra, Colombia, on April 27 (a continuation of the previous video).

Firing in separate places in the municipality

The Mayor of El Tara, Yair Diaz Pinaranda, confirmed, in connection with our editorial board, that the shooting had started in the city by members of Front 33, a splinter group of former FARC fighters (officially demobilized since the peace agreement signed with the government in 2016). ): “Rebels attacked the La Esperanza military base [située au nord de la ville, à un kilomètre environ du gymnase omnisports] And the police station. Then the army immediately responded which led to a confrontation. The shooting lasted about forty minutes.” He said that the shooting took place in different places in the city.

This is particularly shown by the two videos below, which were filmed in the north of town, away from the gym. At first, we see children lying on the floor in a classroom, we hear bursts of fire, and their teacher tells them: “Calm down, nothing will happen, we are on the floor!” When contacted by our editorial staff, she said, “We locked ourselves in the classroom, trying to keep calm, waiting for her to pass.”

Video filmed in a classroom 400 meters from the military base in Altara, Colombia, on April 27 (similar to this Another video).

In the second video, shots were fired and we saw an activated rifle in the street.

Video filmed in Altara, Colombia, near the military base, on April 27: We hear gunshots and see a shotgun activated at 0:14.

For his part, on April 28, The army blamed the National Liberation ArmyAnother group of armed men accused her of attacking residents and the military base along with FARC defectors. She also indicated that two soldiers were wounded, in addition to the civilians mentioned by Gloria. They were all taken to Cúcuta, the department’s capital, for treatment there.

At the moment, there is no clear indication of who injured the civilians, but the military claims that no weapons were used against them.

“If I escape the violence from here, I know I will find it somewhere else.”

Valentina (pseudonym) also attended the events of April 27 with her two daughters:

One often hears gunshots in the city. When that happens, we try to stay calm, and hide in our homes, where the bullets can’t hit us. But there are sometimes injuries, even if they remain rare: for example, in 2021, a bullet pierced the roof of a house and injured a child.

The military base is very close, which may pose a danger, for example to students who have to cross its perimeter to go to school, as the base is a target of armed groups.

It is a special atmosphere: there is insecurity, children’s rights are violated … But here, we have our home and our work, so we will not leave. Then if I escape the violence from here, I know I will find it somewhere else…

In Catatumbo, the sub-district of the province where the Tara is located, various groups of rebels and paramilitaries clash for control of the area. There are about 40,000 hectares of coca plantations and many cocaine production plants in this area, which is a strategic area for drug smuggling.

The photos were taken in El Tara, Colombia, on April 29, during a rally organized for peace, in reaction to the events of the previous day.

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