Colombian army killed hundreds of civilians to fake successful battles and "boost body count" in war against rebels

In a twisted attempt to show battlefield success against FARC rebels, the Colombian military killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians between 2002 and 2008, falsely depicting them as slain combatants, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The killings, known as “false positives,” were the source of a huge scandal in 2008, but the new report alleges that the practice was far more extensive and systematic than previously known. Many of Colombia's highest-ranking military officials either condoned the practice or did nothing to stop it, according to the rights group.

“Under pressure from superiors to show ‘positive’ results and boost body counts in their war against guerrillas, soldiers and officers abducted victims or lured them to remote locations under false pretenses — such as with promises of work — killed them, placed weapons on their lifeless bodies, and then reported them as enemy combatants killed in action,” the report states.

The killings amount to “one of the worst episodes of mass atrocity in the Western Hemisphere in recent decades,” according to the group.

An advance copy of the report was provided to The Washington Post. Human Rights Watch investigators said they would announce their findings Wednesday in Bogota and present them to President Juan Manuel Santos, who is attempting to negotiate a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to end the hemisphere’slongest-running civil conflict.