Colombian Priest Killed After Celebrating Mass

BOGOTA, Colombia, JUNE 28, 2002 ( A priest who was critical of leftist rebels was shot and killed in front of a church where he had just celebrated Mass, the latest clerical casualty in Colombia’s escalating civil war.

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Father Hilario Arango’s murder Thursday night in Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, comes as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas unleashed a wave of threats and violence against local leaders, the Associated Press reported.

On March 16, Cali Archbishop Isaías Duarte Cancino was gunned down after performing a mass wedding in a poor neighborhood. The archbishop had been an outspoken critic of drug traffickers, guerrillas and paramilitary forces. Authorities are still probing the motive for his murder.

In the past few weeks, the group known as the FARC has killed one mayor and demanded hundreds of other government employees and politicians around the country resign their posts or face retaliation.

President Andrés Pastrana announced that the government would pay $2 million for information leading to the capture of the highest-ranking FARC commanders, and $1 million for battalion leaders. Previously, the government had offered about $400,000 for the key commanders.

Bishop Libardo Ramírez Gómez of Garzon, in the nearby Huila state, said Father Arango’s murder «hurts our hearts.» In April, a priest was shot and killed as he delivered Communion in Huila state.

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