Six Colombian rebels killed in fighting


Bogota : Six Colombian rebels have been killed in the first fighting of 2008 in different parts of the country, EFE news agency reported Wednesday.

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The 3rd Brigade troops killed three rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ventura, a rural section of the southwestern province of Cauca.

Another FARC rebel was killed in a clash with troopers in Bucarasica, in the northeastern province of Norte de Santander, the army said.

Two other rebels were killed in fighting with the army near Costa Rica in the town of El Carmen de Bolivar.

The troops seized arms, ammunition and explosives following the clashes.

The FARC is Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, founded in 1964. The group has an estimated 20,000 fighters and is led by septuagenarian founder Manuel Marulanda.

President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in US aid for counterinsurgency operations.

The FARC is on both the US and EU lists of terrorist groups.

The FARC is holding dozens of high-value hostages it deems “exchangeable” for as many as 500 jailed rebels and has demanded demilitarisation of the southwestern towns of Florida and Pradera to open the way for negotiations on a hostage-for-prisoner swap.

Among the “exchangeables” are three US military contractors and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. The FARC has proposed that the two towns be demilitarised for 45 days to facilitate the humanitarian exchange.

On Monday, the FARC postponed the handover of three hostages to a delegation of foreign dignitaries, under a plan crafted by Chavez, claiming that Colombian military operations had made it impossible to safely release the captives.