Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian man shot dead in Medellin church

Map

A Colombian man has been murdered inside a church as he attended a memorial mass for a relative who had also died violently, police say.

The 24-year-old, John Jairo Valencia Osorio, was shot a number of times by two men who approached him as he sat in the pews of a Catholic church in the city of Medellin.

The man died of his wounds in hospital.

The church has been closed until a ceremony of atonement can be carried out by the local archbishop.

A police commander in Medellin, Adan Leon, said he believed the man could have been targeted in a revenge attack.

Violence on rise

Rival gangs operate in the barrios of Medellin, which was once among the most violent cities on the planet.

It was at the heart of the cocaine trade, and was the base of the drugs lord, Pablo Escobar, until he was killed in 1993.

Thousands of people were killed in violence as drug cartels, urban left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries fought each other and the authorities.

Crime rates in the city, which is Colombia's second biggest, dropped steeply as the authorities cracked down on urban violence, enabling it to enjoy something of a renaissance during parts of the last decade.

Recently though, violent crime is once more on the rise. This is due in part to former paramilitaries setting up new, smaller drug cartels.

The number of annual murders in the city almost doubled to 1,432 in 2009 - in a city of just more than two million - and this year has seen a similar trend.

More on this story