Colombia missing 'significantly' less ammunition than reported by president

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Colombia's President Petro march in support of reforms proposed by his government, in Bogota

By Luis Jaime Acosta

(Reuters) -Ammunition and weapons missing from Colombia's army are far less than figures reported by President Gustavo Petro this week, a military report seen by Reuters showed, contradicting his assertions about the loss of Israeli-made anti-tank missiles.

Petro said on Tuesday more than 1.6 million bullets were missing from two military bases in the country's Cundinamarca and La Guajira provinces, as well as thousands of explosive munitions, two Spike missiles and 37 Nimrod missiles.

However, the report cited by Petro only lists 131,000 missing bullets and just under 6,000 explosive munitions. It does not mention any missing missiles.

The presidency and the defense ministry declined to comment.

Two senior military sources told Reuters the president read from the wrong column in the report, which is why he gave the incorrect figures.

General Helder Giraldo, commander of Colombia's military, said an investigation has been launched to determine the correct quantity of missing ammunition, but denied any missiles had been lost.

"It's not about covering up reality," Giraldo told journalists late on Thursday, adding that members of Colombia's military were allegedly implicated in selling arms to "organized armed groups in the country."

Personnel alleged to have been involved have been removed from their posts and face criminal charges, Giraldo added, though he declined to say how many soldiers are under investigation.

Colombia's military told Reuters the missing ammunition was "significantly" less than that reported by Petro, but added it will not tolerate corruption that strengthens illegal armed groups.

Members of Colombia's security forces have been convicted over the years on a variety of corruption and human rights abuse charges.

The country's six-decade internal conflict has killed more than 450,000 people.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime AcostaWriting by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Richard Chang)