Illegal armed groups are imposing strict COVID-19 quarantines in parts of Colombia where the state has a weak presence, threatening and even killing those who don’t comply, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday.

At least nine people have been assassinated in recent months for either refusing to abide by the restrictions or actively opposing them.

One man, community leader Edison Leon, was killed in June after sending a letter alerting local authorities that members of a group called ‘La Mafia’ were forcing residents to staff a health checkpoint in the south-western region of Putumayo.

‘I am not willing to continue sending my people to death,’ he wrote. Days later he was killed.

COVID-19 cases have been steadily increasing in Colombia, with 165,169 confirmed as of Wednesday evening. There have also been 5,814 confirmed deaths.

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