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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Guerrillas Attack Military Base on Colombia-Ecuador Border

BOGOTA – FARC guerrillas attacked a Colombian military base over the weekend in Putumayo, a province on the border with Ecuador, but no casualties were reported, an army commander said.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels attacked the base in Puerto Asis, army 6th Division commander Gen. Juan Carlos Salazar said.

The guerrillas fired a round from a homemade mortar into the base, but it missed the buildings and landed in a field, while a second shell fell near the municipal slaughterhouse, Salazar said.

Two craters were found at the sites where the shells landed, the general said.

The two shells were fired from about three kilometers (1.8 miles) away, Salazar said.

Initial radio reports said the guerrillas had fired at least 11 rounds at the base in Puerto Asis.

Police and army troops tightened security in the town after the killing in January of one of Puerto Asis Mayor Mauro Toro’s grandsons.

FARC guerrillas opened fire with automatic weapons on the houses belonging to Toro and one of his daughters.

The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.

FARC military chief Jorge Briceño, known as “Mono Jojoy,” was killed in a military operation on Sept. 22 in a jungle area near La Macarena.

Several guerrillas who made up the security ring of the military chief – Colombia’s most-wanted man along with the FARC’s top leader, Alfonso Cano – were also killed in the airstrike.

Even prior to Mono Jojoy’s death, the FARC, which has seen its numbers fall by more than half in recent years to roughly 8,000 fighters, had suffered a series of setbacks.

On July 2, 2008, the Colombian army rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers.

The FARC had been trying to trade the 15 captives, along with 25 other “exchangeables,” for hundreds of jailed guerrillas.

The rebels’ most valuable bargaining chip was Betancourt, a dual Colombian-French citizen the FARC seized in February 2002 whose plight became a cause celebre in Europe.

The guerrilla group is believed to still be holding some 700 hostages.

FARC founder Manuel Marulanda, who was known as “Sureshot,” died on March 26, 2008.

Three weeks earlier, Colombian forces staged a cross-border raid into Ecuador, killing FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes and setting off a regional diplomatic crisis.

Ivan Rios, a high-level FARC commander, was killed that same month by one of his own men, who cut off the guerrilla leader’s hand and presented it to army troops, along with identification documents, as proof that the rebel chief was dead.

The FARC, which has fought a succession of Colombian governments for decades, is on both the U.S. and EU lists of foreign terrorist organizations.

Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC’s main means of financing its operations. EFE

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