Clashes between dissident Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) in the department of Arauca near the Venezuelan border have left at least 16 people dead, it was reported Monday.
Colombian Ombudsman Carlos Camargo told reporters the bodies were held at morgues where the cause of the deaths will be determined.
Gunfights between the two groups erupted Sunday over the territorial control of illicit economies on the border, the Colombian Army said in a statement. Arauquita Mayor Etelivar Torres warned in a statement that the death toll could be of up to 21 people.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has urged both groups to spare civilians from their mutual hostilities. We ask that due assistance be given to the wounded, that the life and integrity of those detained be respected and that the bodies of the deceased be treated with dignity, Arauca Bishop Jaime Cristóbal Abril said in a statement.
The Colombian delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has launched an appeal for International Humanitarian Law to be complied with to protect civilian populations and activate contingency plans.
The UNHCHR also insisted that recommendations by the Ombudsman's Office in early warnings be followed to protect more than 69,000 civilians, mostly those under special protection rules such as indigenous communities.
The Ombudsman's Office has said there had been homicides, threats, illegal detentions, massive displacements and risk of forced displacement.
Regional authorities in Arauca denounced fighting was escalating in several municipalities between FARC dissidents and ELN guerrillas.