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article imageRaids, arrests in Colombia target illegal mines

By AFP     May 11, 2015 in World

Colombian authorities said Monday nearly 60 people were arrested in raids last week targeting illegal mining operations used to finance the FARC guerrilla group.

"It is the cleanest and hardest blow in more than a decade, possibly one of the biggest in history, against illegal mining," said Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.

The operation, which involved more than 600 troops, police and magistrates, was carried out in several regions of southern and eastern Colombia, near its borders with Brazil and Venezuela, where guerrilla groups and criminal gangs are active.

Pinzon said the raids dismantled "an illegal financing network" of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country's largest guerrilla group with an estimated 8,000 fighters.

The FARC has been in peace talks with the government since November 2012, but the war has continued on a low flame.

"This operation prevented the FARC terrorist organization from getting its hands on 20 billion pesos (about $8 million)," Pinzon said.

In all, authorities raided 63 sites where gold, tungsten and cobalt were being mined in Indian reservations.

Among those arrested were 12 FARC guerrillas, and five foreign nationals, including four Brazilians and a Venezuelan, a military source told AFP.

Mining revenues represented 2.3 percent of Colombia's national income in 2012 but more than half its mines are unregulated, according to official figures.

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