BOGOTA – Three National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas, including a rebel involved in the 1999 hijacking of an Avianca plane, were killed in fighting with army troops, while five other insurgents were captured, the Colombian Defense Ministry said.
The rebels were killed on Saturday in Arenal, a town in the Caribbean province of Bolivar, the ministry said in a statement.
Jose Palencia Carvajal, the commander of the ELN’s Alfredo Gomez Quiñonez Front, was among the rebels killed by the army.
Palencia Carvajal joined the ELN in 1985, was an explosives expert and took part in the April 12, 1999, hijacking of an Avianca Fokker 50.
Six ELN guerrillas hijacked the plane, which was flying from Bucaramanga to Bogota with 41 passengers and a five-person crew.
The rebels forced the plane to land on an improvised airstrip between the cities of Simiti and San Pablo in southern Bolivar, near where the fighting that led to the guerrilla commander’s death occurred.
The passengers were taken to an area under the control of the ELN, which demanded the payment of ransom for their release.
The captives were freed gradually, with the last one being released 19 months after the hijacking.