Seven killed in bar shooting in drug-producing Colombian province

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Gunmen killed seven people on Sunday in a bar in Colombia’s Antioquia province, where the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group and the Gulf Clan drug gang are locked in a dispute over territory, police said.

The ELN and the Gulf Clan, founded by former right-wing paramilitaries, are fighting over drug production previously controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, who demobilized last year after a peace deal.

“Five armed subjects entered and shot patrons and caused the death of seven people,” Carlos Mauricio Sierra, police commander for the province, told reporters on Monday. The incident took place in the mountainous Yarumal municipality.

In the nearby municipality of Caceres, hundreds of people were displaced from their homes over the weekend by fighting between illegal armed groups, Antioquia’s provincial government said on its website.

The ELN, FARC dissidents who refused to demobilize and crime gangs are also involved in illegal mining of gold, extortion and other crimes. The government has sent thousands of additional soldiers to troubled areas in a bid to improve security.

The ELN is holding peace talks with the Colombian government in Quito, but the talks were recently interrupted when the group stepped up its attacks after the end of a ceasefire.

The Gulf Clan has repeatedly expressed a desire to come to a surrender agreement with Colombia’s government, which has said it will not negotiate with criminal groups.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Paul Simao