Venezuelan soldiers entered Colombia, fired weapons: Colombian army

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2015 10:06 PM

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Members of Venezuela's national guard crossed into Colombia on Friday, firing their weapons and setting a motorcycle on fire, the Colombian army said, amid an on-going diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

About 15 Venezuelan soldiers entered Maicao municipality in eastern La Guajira province in apparent pursuit of an individual on a motorcycle who had attempted to cross the border into Venezuela, the Colombian army said in a statement.

Relations between the South American neighbors have been tense since Venezuela closed major border crossings in recent weeks and deported over 1,500 Colombians in what it calls a crackdown on crime.

"The Bolivarian National Guard fired shots with long guns and carried out the pursuit in a 4x4 vehicle inside Colombian territory," the statement said, adding that the soldiers went about a kilometer (half-mile) into Colombia.

After the individual on the motorcycle entered a home, the soldiers burnt the abandoned vehicle and returned to Venezuela, the army said.

Community members said they were mistreated by the soldiers, and shell casings, as well as the remains of the charred motorcycle, were found by Colombian troops, the statement added.

The army will remain in the municipality and has turned over details of the events to the defense minister.

Tensions between Bogota and Caracas rose further last weekend when Colombia said three Venezuelan aircraft had been caught flying in its airspace without permission, a claim Venezuela characterized as "invented."

However, after mediations by Ecuador and Uruguay, the presidents of both countries said they would meet on Monday in Quito to discuss the dispute.

Earlier on Friday a Venezuelan fighter jet crashed near the Colombian border, killing both pilots aboard. Venezuelan officials said an "illicit aircraft" likely linked to drug trafficking had entered its airspace.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Ken Wills)