Thousands flee as the Venezuelan army fights with Colombian gangs

Photographer: Daniel Fernando Martinez Cervera / AFP / Getty Images

Deadly clashes between Venezuelan security forces and illegal armed groups have caused thousands of civilians to flee for security across the border into Colombia.

More than 3,100 Venezuelans have been “forced” to cross the border since fighting broke out this week, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry said in a Twitter message on Wednesday.

The violence, in the Venezuelan border state of Apure, continued on Wednesday with explosions at a tax office there and a National Guard checkpoint, human rights organization Fundaredes said. According to Fundaredes, the military fired at the militias from helicopters, while local media reported that a state-owned Corpoelec truck had been attacked.

Venezuela accused Colombia in a statement of support for the illegal activities of “criminal groups” at the border, including drug trafficking and illegal mining. President Nicolas Maduro’s government said these armed groups have attacked civilians, electrical and oil installations and have even placed landmines in the area.