Gun battle near school in Colombia: 2 children injured, 5 fighters killed

Two schoolchildren were injured in the crossfire between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary fighters near a school in central Colombia, police said Tuesday. Five fighters were killed. The two sides exchanged gunfire and grenades Monday during school hours in the rural town of Puerto Lleras, 170 kilometers (105 miles) south of Bogota, said Col. William Nunez, police chief in Meta state.

An 11-year-old girl was shot in the back and a 4-year-old boy was hit by shrapnel from a grenade blast while leaving the school grounds along with other children, Nunez said. "This kind of thing never should have happened. They're putting children, who are the future of this country, in the middle of the conflict," the police chief said.

After the shooting stopped, police found the bodies of five combatants near the school, but they said it was unclear whether they were rebels or paramilitary fighters. Colombia's leftist rebels have been at war with the government for 41 years. Paramilitary groups sprang up in the 1980s to attack rebels through illegal means. The paramilitaries have agreed to a peace deal in which they would completely disarm and demobilize by next month, but many regional factions remain active, reports the AP.

N.U.