The Colombian government, which has been battling left-wing guerrillas and drug barons' private armies for years, now faces another internal foe - rightist paramilitary groups.

Analysts say that after often turning a blind eye on right-wing death squads - consciously or unconsciously perceiving them as anti-guerrilla allies - authorities were brutally awakened to the growing danger they represent when rightists slaughtered 12 members of a judicial investigating commission last month.Most of last year's massacres in the banana-growing region of Uraba, near Panama, or in the northern Cordoba province, including 42 civilians gunned down in the mining town of Segovia, were attributed to right-wing death squads.