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Colombia official says troops alone will not stop killings

A recent spate of mass killings in Colombia will not be stopped by the presence of the armed forces alone, a high-ranking security official said on Wednesday, emphasizing that social investment is key to ending violence.

BOGOTA, Aug 26 (Reuters) - A recent spate of mass killings in Colombia will not be stopped by the presence of the armed forces alone, a high-ranking security official said on Wednesday, emphasizing that social investment is key to ending violence.

Separate attacks over the last two weeks in regions contested by groups involved with drug trafficking have sparked anger among Colombians and criticism from human rights organizations.

Two attacks in Narino province left a total of 14 dead, while others in Cauca, Arauca and other areas registered death tolls of six, five or lower.

The areas where the killings have taken place have drug trafficking and illegal mining in common, Rafael Guarin, presidential adviser for security, told journalists in a video event. They also share a weak state presence going back decades, he said.

"Of course we need efficient armed forces who give results, who protect the population, who confront and destroy organized armed groups, but it's clear the answer isn't just troops and more troops and police and more police, but a focus on holistic intervention," Guarin said. "That means we need a strong presence of state institutions and social services and a focus on substituting illicit economies with licit ones."

Accelerating development plans in high-violence areas is already part of government policy, Guarin added.

"The social element is a central element within the security strategy," he said. "These are critical security areas."

Drug trafficking has long fueled Colombia's decades-long internal conflict, which has killed more than 260,000 and displaced millions.

Fighting over lucrative drug and illegal mining territory has accelerated in some parts of the country since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels demobilized under a 2016 peace deal, leaving areas uncontrolled.

The leftist guerrilla group the National Liberation Army, former members of the FARC who reject the peace accord, criminal groups composed of former right-wing paramilitaries and drugs gangs are all involved in trafficking and illegal mining.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Leslie Adler)

((julia.cobb@thomsonreuters.com; +57-316-389-7187;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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