FARC second-in-command killed by Colombian military

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Raúl Reyes

Raúl Reyes, senior guerrilla commander and international spokesman of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been killed by Colombian security forces in the southern province of Putumayo, the government said Saturday.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos confirmed his death in a press conference. He said that 16 other FARC rebels and one Colombian soldier were killed in the skirmish, which took place in a rebel stronghold near the border with Ecuador.

"It is the hardest blow to FARC in all of its history", Santos said. Colombian security analyst Alfredo Rangel added, "This could hit morale [of the FARC] because the myth of the invulnerability of the bosses is over."

The military was able to locate the rebels by intercepting one of their satellite communications, he said. After launching an air strike on the rebel base, the Colombian military came under fire from the guerrilas. The military fired back, killing Reyes while in Ecuadorian territory. The bodies of the dead were then taken to Colombia.

"Once the camp was bombarded, Colombian forces were ordered in to secure the area and neutralize the enemy. The police was also asked to keep it secure until Ecuadoran authorities arrived," Santos said.

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, who was monitoring the operation, contacted Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa to inform him of the incident. "It appears the FARC entered Ecuadorean territory," Correa said. "The incident must be clarified a bit." Correa said he will send troops to the area for an investigation.

According to the Associated Press, Reyes, whose real name was Luis Edgar Devia Silva, was considered a contender for becoming leader of FARC. Their current leader, Manuel Marulanda, is believed to be in poor health.

Also killed in the fighting was Guillermo Enrique Torres, known by the alias of "Julián Conrado". He was a senior member of FARC who composed and performed revolutionary songs.

FARC is considered a terrorist organization by Colombia, the United States, and the European Union. The group has been accused of drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping, among other illegal activities. The U.S. Department of State had offered a US$5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest of Reyes, as well as the other 6 members of the FARC's highest governing body.