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Colombian government confirms death of rebel leader


Bogota : Colombia’s Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Saturday the death of Raul Reyes, the second-in-command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Speaking to reporters during a press conference broadcast live from Bogota, Santos said Reyes and 16 other rebels had died during an air raid earlier Saturday.

The dead included another FARC commander Julian Conrado. Colombian troops secured the bodies.

Reyes was second only to FARC chief Manuel Marulanda, and was the group’s spokesman. He headed unsuccessful peace negotiations with Andres Pastrana’s government in 2002.

Reyes was considered one of the most likely successors to Marulanda, who is said to be seriously ill.

The death of Reyes would deal a blow to negotiations on exchanging 500 jailed rebels for 40 troops, police officers and politicians including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who is reportedly seriously ill.