Shooting rang out in El Tarra, a small town in northern Colombia, on the sidelines of the “Children’s Day” activities on April 27. They caused panic among the participants, mostly children, and injured four people, including two civilians. Authorities accused the guerrillas of being behind the shooting. Interviewed by our editorial staff, the mothers affirm that violence is recurrent in the area, undermined by armed groups and drug trafficking.
El Tarra is a town in the Norte de Santander department, on the border with Venezuela. On April 27, activities were organized in a multi-sports gym in the city, to celebrate “Children’s Day”. About 3,000 people took part, including 2,500 children. The gunshots began to ring out around 4:30 pm, according to two mothers interviewed by our editorial team, who wished to remain anonymous.
“I was afraid, because you never know how it can end”
Gloria (pseudonym) was there with her 11-year-old daughter:
At one point someone told me there was a shooting, but I didn’t notice it because of the music. I only heard them later. With my daughter we hid under the stage to protect ourselves, until the end of the shoot. I got the impression that the shots were close enough, but I didn’t see any gunmen. 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 know who was close to me was shot in the leg. A 14-year-old girl was also injured, a little further on. They were then taken to a health center.
In the video below, we see a man carrying a girl – the wounded teenager, according to Gloria.
Video shot in the sports gym in El Tarra, Colombia, on April 27: at 0’16, a man carries the injured teenager in his arms.
In another video – which follows the first – a lady complains: “Girl, they shot her here, Sir!” In these two videos we also see children running, we hear people screaming, crying and a woman screaming into a loudspeaker: “Please stop shooting, there are children!” On the other hand, we don’t hear the shots in these videos.
Serious situation in el #Tarra en actividad del día niño civil población queda en medio del fuego cruzado, exigimos la necesidad de l’respect al IHL y la puesta en marche de los Minimos Humanitarios, Nos solidarizamos with the familia de la menor de edad herida y población del Tarra pic.twitter.com/GMw0ofNtlq
– AscamcatOficial (@AscamcatOficia) April 28, 2022
Video shot in the omnisports gym in El Tarra, Colombia, on April 27 (continuation of the previous video).
Shooting in various places in the municipality
Contacted by our editorial team, the mayor of El Tarra, Yair Díaz Peñaranda, said that the shootings had been started in the city by members of Front 33, a dissident group of former FARC guerrillas (officially demobilized after the peace agreement signed with the government in 2016): “The guerrillas attacked the military base of La Esperanza [située au nord de la ville, à un kilomètre environ du gymnase omnisports, NDLR] and the police station. The army then reacted immediately, which generated a confrontation. The shootings lasted about 40 minutes. ”He said the shootings took place in several places in the city.
This is demonstrated in particular by the two videos below, shot in the north of the city, away from the sports hall. In the first we see children lying on the ground in a classroom, we hear bursts of gunfire and their teacher repeating to them: “Don’t worry, nothing will happen, we’re on the ground!” Contacted by our editorial team, she said: “We closed ourselves in the classroom, trying to stay calm, waiting for it to pass”.
To speak of this violence is an ethical imperative. No puede ser que a teacher en el Tarra keep que living this terrible situation with sus alumnos of her. She needs one #PazTotal pic.twitter.com/hpj7CsB774
– Diana Sanchez Lara (@DianaDefensora) April 28, 2022
Video shot in a classroom about 400 meters from the El Tarra military base in Colombia on April 27 (similar to this another video).
In the second video, shots rang out and we see a triggered gun in the street.
Video shot in El Tarra, Colombia, near the military base, on April 27: we hear shots and see a cannon activated, at 0’14.
For its part, on April 28 the army blamed the ELN, another group of guerrillas, accusing them of attacking the population and the military base with dissidents from the FARC. He also indicated that two soldiers had been wounded, in addition to the two civilians mentioned by Gloria. All were transferred to Cucuta, the capital of the department, to receive treatment there.
For the moment, nothing clearly indicates who injured the two civilians, but the army claims that it did not use weapons against them.
“If I flee violence from here, I know I’ll find it elsewhere”
Valentina (pseudonym) also participated in the events of April 27 with her two daughters:
We often hear gunshots in the city. When that happens, we try to stay calm, we hide in our homes, where bullets can’t hit us. But sometimes there are injuries, even if it remains rare: for example, in 2021 a bullet went through the roof of a house and injured a child.
The military base is very close, which can pose a danger, for example for 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 being violated… But here we have our home and our work, so we don’t leave. And then if I flee the violence from here, I know that I will find it elsewhere …
In Catatumbo, a sub-region of the department where El Tarra is located, several groups of guerrillas and paramilitaries clash for control of the territory. In this strategic area for drug trafficking there are approximately 40,000 hectares of coca plantations and numerous cocaine production workshops.
Photos taken in El Tarra, Colombia, on April 29, during an organized march for peace, in reaction to the events of the day before yesterday.