By Sinan Dogan
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – Eight Venezuelan soldiers have been killed in clashes with a Colombian criminal group, Venezuela’s defense minister confirmed Wednesday.
In a statement, Vladimir Padrino Lopez said the latest developments occurred during a military operation against illegal armed groups along the country’s border with Colombia.
Venezuelan authorities said a large number of terrorists were also neutralized in the operation.
– Border clashes
The Venezuelan state of Apure on the border with Colombia has been witnessing heavy clashes for more than a month between the Venezuelan Armed Forces and a criminal group from Colombia which is believed to be a dissident faction of the FARC guerrilla group.
The clashes began when Venezuelan forces launched Operation Bolivar Shield.
According to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the operation’s mission is to protect Venezuela’s border from “Colombia's abandonment,” which has resulted in armed groups occupying the area illegally for drug trafficking purposes.
In early April, eight Venezuelan soldiers were killed and 34 others wounded during operations along the border against a Colombian criminal group.
Also, two Venezuelan soldiers were killed and nine others wounded when a land mine exploded during operations against armed groups along the Colombian border.
As a result of the combat, over 7,000 Venezuelans have left the area, crossing the border into Colombia.
The Venezuelan opposition has asked the UN to send a mission to the border and the request has also been extended to other international institutions.
The opposition similarly urged the Venezuelan government to "implement a border state policy so that fellow citizens feel safe in their territory," arguing that the mismanagement of the crisis has led to thousands of Venezuelans crossing the border into Colombia.