05:46 GMT15 July 2020
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    Three Venezuelan soldiers died in a skirmish with a Colombian paramilitary group, an incident said to be retaliation for the capture of nine Colombian militants.

    Venezuela has reportedly strengthened its military force at its Colombian border following a weekend incident in which a Colombian armed group killed three Venezuelan servicemen and injured 10 more.

    According to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the attack by Colombian militants was an act of retaliation against the previous capture of "nine Colombian paramilitary members."

    "We will find the paramilitaries, wherever they are," Padrino said in a statement on state television, according to Reuters. "For now, I say to them: leave Venezuela. There is no space here. There has never been any space here for you."

    He did not specify how many additional troops will be stationed at the border.

    The 10 Venezuelan servicemen injured in the skirmish are not in critical condition, the minister said.

    Incidents between the two countries' armed groups are fairly common, Reuters notes, which has led to long-standing animosity between the governments of the two South American nations. Earlier in September, Colombia claimed Venezuelan troops had crossed into its territory.

    According to Venezuelan opposition party Popular Will, the weekend attack was conducted by Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN). The opposition blamed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for turning a blind eye to Colombian armed groups operating in Venezuelan territory.

    Colombia's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday that one of the nine captured militants was Luis Ortega, a Colombian citizen and ELN leader wanted by Interpol for crimes he allegedly committed in his home country.


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    paramilitary troops, reinforcement, troops, border, National Liberation Army (ELN), Nicolas Maduro, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Colombia, Venezuela
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