CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) # Suspected Colombian gunmen ambushed and shot dead four Venezuelan National Guard troops near the two nations’ border Saturday in the second deadly attack on Venezuelan forces in three days, officers said.
“We presume this was carried out by a group of Colombian irregulars,” Gen. Castor Perez said in a televised interview from Zulia state, where the troops were shot while patrolling in the remote Tres Bocas frontier region.
Perez said it was not immediately clear whether Marxist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries or another Colombian group was responsible for the killings, which he said were probably carried out by a large group.
“Our unit was hit by more than 50 bullets,” he said.
The deaths brought to seven the number of Venezuelan troops killed in the border region this week.
On Wednesday, three National Guard troops patrolling the border with Colombia in Tachira state, south of Zulia, were also ambushed and killed by unidentified gunmen.
In both incidents, the soldiers’ rifles were stolen, but a National Guard officer who asked not to be named said it was not clear whether the attacks were linked.
Venezuela’s armed forces sometimes clash with Colombian guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries as well as local drug traffickers and kidnappers along the rugged, 1,400-mile border. But military casualties on the Venezuelan side have been relatively rare until recently.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has denied Colombian allegations that his leftist government sympathizes with, and even actively supports, Colombian Marxist rebels. Chavez has accused the Colombian government of not doing enough to prevent Colombia’s decades-old conflict from spilling over into Venezuela.