Colombian authorities suspect that gruesome findings in the plumbing system of a notorious Bogota prison may provide evidence into the whereabouts of at least 100 people who were disappeared between 1999 and 2001, the attorney general announced Wednesday.
The national director of joint specialized public prosecutors’ offices, Caterina Heyck, said the victims were “recluses, visitors, persons from outside the prison, whose remains were thrown into the sewage ducts.”
“The number of victims is unknown, it is known that it is a figure greater than 100, and could even be quite a bit higher,” she said.
The official, who did not blame a person or organization for the murders, said that similar cases had also been registered in three other prisons, in the cities of Popayan, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla.
According to the official, the revelation prompts an urgent need for soul-searching in Colombia.
“The horrors of what happened in that prison should be analyzed in a criminal investigation, but also call for a deep reflection within Colombian society,” she said.
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The La Modelo prison, located in the center of the Colombian capital, one of the most important in the country, is known for heavy overcrowding. Inmates include drug traffickers, leftist guerrillas, far-right paramilitaries and common criminals.
Confrontations and score-settling between rival gangs are frequent in Colombian prisons, to maintain control of the detention facilities where they can continue drug dealing, extortion, kidnapping and arms dealing.
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A prior version of this article reported that 100 bodies had been found in the sewer system. This has not been established.
Originally published Feb. 17, 2016. Updated Feb. 23, 2016 at 10:38 a.m.