Facebook Killings in Colombia

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This is the most chilling story I've seen in a while:

Diego Ferney Jaramillo, 16, and Eibart Alejandro Ruiz Munoz, 17, were shot dead on Aug 15 while riding a motorcycle on the outskirts of the town of Puerto Asis.

Two days later, young people in the town received via Facebook a hitlist with 69 names on it, including those of the two killed. The teenagers on the list were advised to leave town or face death.

Norbey Alexander Vargas, 19, was shot dead three days after his name appeared on the list.

Police thought the first list was a macabre joke or a game between adolescents, officials said, but when the second list with 31 additional names appeared days later, parents began to panic and authorities launched an investigation.

Further threats have been issued, with a message on a leaflet left on cars in the Colombian town reading: "Please, as relatives, ask [the teenagers on the list] to leave town in less than three days, or we'll see ourselves forced to carry out more acts like that of 15 August".

It sounds like a description of a B-list summer horror flick, not a news article.

So far, there's no explanation, except that the area in question has a lot of drug war activity.  That doesn't seem very helpful; drug lords are bad, but I find it hard to believe that they've developed hundred-person hitlists of local teenagers, or that they use Facebook to communicate their threats.  A disgruntled bullied kid seems more likely, but really, the thing's so bizarre that it's hard to employ the word "likely" about any of it.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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