6 killed by machete in Colombia gold mine massacre

BOGOTA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Six Afro-Colombian gold miners were killed on Thursday by unidentified machete-wielding men who attacked them as they worked in the impoverished western province of Choco, authorities said.

The attack came amid a wave of killings in which dozens of candidates, campaign workers and politicians have been gunned down ahead of Oct. 28 local elections. But police said the unexplained incident at the open pit mine near the town of Istmina did not appear to be election-related.

Choco is a violent cocaine-producing area between Panama to the north, a common destination for smugglers, and Valle del Cauca province to the south, home to Colombia's toughest drug cartel. Left-wing rebels and far-right paramilitaries, both funded by the cocaine trade, are active in the area.

Most people in Choco are descended from African slaves brought by the Spanish to work in local gold mines, or from freed slaves who sought refuge from racism in Colombia's cities.