Colombian Priest Is Killed in Ambush

Saved the Lives of People Threatened by Guerrillas and Paramilitary

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BOGOTA, Colombia, JAN. 20, 2002 ( A young Colombian priest, who saved the lives of people threatened by guerrillas and paramilitary forces, was killed in an ambush Friday afternoon.

According to police sources, Father Arley Arias García, 30, was slain along with two other people when he was going to his parish church in Florencia, in the municipality of Samana, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of the capital.

The priest had been working in Florencia for the past five and a half years. He was president of Florencia´s Peace Junta, and helped to gain the release of a number of hostages. On several occasions, he prevented the guerrilla and paramilitary forces from killing citizens.

The two others who were killed were Carlos Pérez, 21, a youth who helped the priest in his pastoral tasks, and his cousin, Fernando Pérez, 16, godson of Carlos´ father.

In May 1999, when guerrillas took control of Florencia for a second time, they destroyed the church. Father Arias García rebuilt it.

On Nov. 22, an unknown group killed one of the priest´s brothers in Samana. The deceased had worked in the health service.

Father Arias García´s killing has occurred at a time when San Diego, a town a few hours from Florencia, has 1,500 displaced people, victims of the confrontation between guerrillas and the paramilitary forces.

That same day, Governor Luis Alfonso Arias Aristizábal of Caldas sent a letter to Gustavo Bell Lemus, Defense Minister, requesting the presence of the army to re-establish order in Samana.

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