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ICRC increases efforts in Colombia

BOGOTA, April 15 (UPI) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has increased its level of support for local Colombian populations because of ongoing rebel violence.

The ICRC said Wednesday that the violence against civilians committed by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, and other militant groups has prompted the aid agency to increase its level of support for the growing number of displaced persons. Officials said the aid distributed to Colombia in 2008 increased 10 percent over 2007, the ICRC reported.

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Officials said the increase in aid is partly due to new regions that the ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross have been able to access, but the civilians caught in the armed conflict have faced ongoing direct attacks and an increase in the threat of forced recruitment.

"Sadly, far too many civilians in Colombia continue to be targeted by weapon-bearers," Christophe Beney, ICRC Colombia delegation head, said in a statement.

"In 2008, the ICRC documented over 1,600 alleged violations of international humanitarian law," Beney said. "These statistics make it clear that the parties to the conflict are not doing enough to ensure that their fighters spare and protect civilians and those no longer participating in hostilities."

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