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Venezuela blames Colombia after border ambush kills three

Venezuelan Minister of Defence General Vladimir Padrino (C), pictured with President Nicolas Maduro (L) on August 4, 2018, criticized Colombia for being "unable to control its groups, its violence and its drug trafficking"
Venezuelan Minister of Defence General Vladimir Padrino (C), pictured with President Nicolas Maduro (L) on August 4, 2018, criticized Colombia for being "unable to control its groups, its violence and its drug trafficking" AFP/File
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Caracas (AFP)

Caracas accused neighbor Bogota on Monday of being unable to control its armed groups after three Venezuelan soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected Colombian ELN guerrillas.

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino confirmed three soldiers were killed in an attack in a border area on Sunday that also wounded 10 of its troops.

He criticized Colombia for being "unable to control its groups, its violence and its drug trafficking."

Colombia has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of being a dictator, blaming the socialist leader for the country's economic collapse and a refugee crisis that has seen Colombia take in more than a million Venezuelan migrants.

Padrino said Sunday's attack was part of a deliberate strategy to escalate tensions along the 2,200 kilometer (1,370-mile) border.

The Venezuelan minister said the attack in the southern state of Amazonas was carried out by a Colombian paramilitary group in retaliation for the capture of nine of its members.

The minister did not identify the group but local press reports and Kape Kape -- an NGO working with indigenous communities along the border -- said the attack was carried out by leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.

Colombia's last active rebel group said in September it would not suspend its insurgency until the country's new right-wing government resumes stalled peace talks in Havana.

Colombian officials say the ELN and other illegal groups use Venezuelan territory as a refuge to evade its own armed forces, often with the tolerance of local authorities.

Speaking on state television, Padrino criticized Colombia for "irresponsibly" refusing to coordinate security along the border, saying it had allowed armed groups smuggling contraband and drugs to flourish.

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