Five coffee pickers killed in Colombian massacre

The government blames groups that finance drug trafficking and illegal gold mining for a resurgence in killings

Armed men killed five coffee pickers and injured another Wednesday in an attack on a farm in northwest Colombia, police said.

The reasons for the attack in the town of Andes in Antioquia department were unknown, but the area is under the control of a paramilitary drug-trafficking gang called the Gulf Clan, known for conflicts with rivals over smuggling routes.

Six men dressed in dark, hooded garments attacked the laborers with knives and guns in the early morning hours, police said.

It is the latest in a string of such massacres -- attacks resulting in three or more deaths on the definition of the UN -- in recent months.

In December, the UN said armed groups had carried out 66 massacres across Colombia in 2020, in which 255 people died. Local organization Indepaz puts the number at 91 massacres.

Antioquia is the department hardest hit by the wave of killings -- the worst since a 2016 peace deal that ended decades of civil war and reduced levels of violence in a traumatized society.

This year so far, there have been four such attacks in Antioquia -- a third of the national total.

Last November, five coffee growers and three other people were killed in an overnight attack on a farm in the Antioquia town of Betania.

The government blames groups that finance drug trafficking and illegal gold mining for the resurgence in killings.

Added to 2020's violent toll, 120 human rights defenders were killed, according to the UN, which said 244 former FARC fighters have also been murdered since the 2016 deal.

The Gulf Clan controls the bulk of Colombia's cocaine production and uses violence and intimidation to control narcotics trafficking routes, cocaine processing laboratories and departure points.