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Ambush on Venezuela-Colombia border kills 7
Updated: 2004-09-18 15:41

Six Venezuelan soldiers and an oil engineer were killed when an armed group attacked a military patrol and state oil company employees near the border with Colombia, Venezuela's defense minister said.

Gen. Jorge Garcia Carneiro did not identify the attackers but Venezuela's armed forces have clashed in the past with Colombian left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries entering from the neighboring country.

Friday's attack was one of the most serious incidents reported recently on the volatile border between the two Andean countries. Another soldier and a civilian engineer were injured in the clash, which took place near the border village of La Victoria, 25 miles (40 kms) from Guasdualito in the southwest state of Apure.

Venezuela rushed troops and armed helicopters to the area to try to capture the attackers, whom Garcia called "terrorists."

"We are doing everything possible to ensure that these events do not go unpunished," the defense minister told state television late on Friday.

Military officials said the group of Venezuelan soldiers and employees of the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, were ambushed as they were inspecting the Guafita oil field.

They said the civilian engineer killed was 23-year-old Ana Laura Carrasco.

Relations between Venezuela and Colombia have been strained in the past by border incidents.

Colombia's government and military have in the past accused left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of sympathizing with, and even collaborating with, Colombian Marxist guerrillas fighting a four-decade war.

Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 and won a referendum on his rule last month, has angrily denied the charges.

He has criticized the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for not doing enough to maintain security on the border, which stretches from the Caribbean coast in the north to the jungles of the Amazon in the south.

Venezuelan officials have also accused Colombia's military of having links with Colombian right-wing paramilitaries they say often foray across the border to raid and kidnap civilians in oil-rich Venezuela.

Garcia said he would travel to the border region Saturday to join the hunt for the attackers.

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