Nearly 400 people displaced by armed group in Colombia's jungle

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Almost 400 people have fled their homes in Colombia’s northwestern Choco region in fear for their lives, after a criminal gang entered the area, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Some 200 members of the Autodefensas Gaitanistas, classed by the military as a criminal gang which includes former right-wing paramilitaries, arrived in Pena Azul over the weekend, the human rights group said in a statement.

“According to witnesses, the paramilitaries entered the locality looking for members of the ELN guerrilla group, which obliged 399 people (128 families) who feared for their lives to flee,” Amnesty said. “Eight families are still unaccounted for.”

The rights group said the incident is evidence that Colombia’s armed conflict is far from over, despite a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel group and peace talks with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas.

Paramilitary groups in the country officially demobilized more than a decade ago, but many former members joined crime gangs and have continued to participate in violence and drug trafficking.

The country’s armed conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions since 1964.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Leslie Adler