BOGOTA, Colombia

At least eight civilians were killed last week in a mine explosion on Venezuela’s border with Colombia, an official said on Friday.

The anti-personnel mines that detonated in the Apure state on the Colombian border were laid by “terrorists” traveling on motorcycles, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez told reporters in the capital Caracas.

He said that nine armed men have been killed and 56 suspects have been arrested this year since the Venezuelan security forces launched Operation Bolivar Shield 2022 against armed groups in border towns last month.

Areas along the Colombian-Venezuelan border have seen heavy clashes since last Sunday between the Venezuelan army and Colombian armed groups with thousands of Venezuelans having been displaced from Apure state to Colombian territory.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has said the operation was aimed at “protecting our border from Colombia’s abandonment of the entire border, which causes armed groups to come here.”

Venezuela has said the army would continue to have “zero tolerance” for these criminal groups that are “destabilizing and illegally occupying Venezuelan territory for drug trafficking purposes.”

Security forces also seized a large amount of illicit drugs, explosive devices, and ammunition, which were reportedly brought from Colombia, during the operations, the Venezuelan defense minister added.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz in Ankara

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