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Journalist held at gunpoint, unknown assailants seize his files

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 23 April 2009, journalist and writer Gustavo Álvarez Gardeazábal, who works for the editorial programme "La Luciérnaga" broadcast on Caracol Radio, was assaulted, held at gunpoint and threatened by unknown individuals who came into his home and took some of his files.

According to the journalist, six armed men burst into his home in Tulúa, Valle del Cauca, and pointed their guns at him and a domestic worker. They told the journalist that he would have to accompany them but then there was a change of plans. The unknown assailants began to rifle through Álvarez's files and information collected through his investigations. At the same time, they were receiving orders on the telephone.

The assailants said they could not find what they were looking for and decided to take the journalist's two computers and his two mobile phones. Álvarez noted that the men sported military style haircuts and that a few minutes before the incident an army van was parked in front of his house.

The head of the army's intelligence in Valle del Cauca, Capitan Leonel Suéscun, said that on the same day, one of the men had foolishly lent the van to a peasant family. However, the official could not provide any further explanation about the attack on the journalist or other details which leave some serious doubts. For example, according to a police report, certain police officers stopped the army vehicle that had been near the journalist's home and inside they found three people who apparently were army informants. Soldiers in civilian clothing reportedly later came to pick up the vehicle.

Álvarez told FLIP that he was concerned that the police and army versions of the story contradicted each other. He added that he had received a security plan by order of Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio and that the only thing he hoped for was that the attackers would be found.

FLIP urges the national army to provide a clear and complete explanation of what happened and calls on the Attorney General's Office to launch an investigation. The facts currently known suggest that the attack against Álvarez is connected to his profession.

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