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COLOMBIA: Deaths of 3 teens feed fear over Facebook threats

August 26, 2010 |  1:49 pm

Lists posted on Facebook threatening death to 90 people in a southern department of Colombia are causing panic after three young people named were confirmed killed (link in Spanish), reports in Colombia said.

The lists are concentrated in the Puerto Asis municipality of Putumayo, where parents have said they are sending their children away places after the killings of Diego Jaramillo, 16, and Eibart Ruiz, 17. They were shot while riding a motorcycle. Reports differed on whether the incident occurred Aug. 15 or 16.

In the days that followed, the first of the lists appeared and the names of Diego and Eibart were included on it (link in Spanish), reported Agence France-Presse. On Aug. 20, another teen whose name was on one of the lists, Norbey Alexander Vargas, 19, was killed.

Authorities first suspected that the lists were a prank. But investigators from Bogota, the capital, have gone to Puerto Asis and launched a special inquiry (link in Spanish) with the help of Internet experts. Other news sources said such Facebook death threats have been reported in four other departments in Colombia.

A total of 90 people on three lists have been warned to either leave Puerto Asis or face death. But some are only nicknames known only among the youths' peers, said a Putumayo official. The rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is known to operate in the area as well as a gang called Los Rastrojos.

Lists of people threatened with death have appeared before in Colombia, but not online, said a correspondent for Spain's ABC newspaper. Right-wing paramilitaries have signed and publicly posted in other regions death threats against "drug addicts and prostitutes," with names listed.

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City