BOGOTA – Colombia’s armed forces killed 33 leftist guerrillas and captured another rebel in an operation in the northeastern province of Arauca, the defense minister said Wednesday.
Juan Carlos Pinzon provided those figures in a press conference, identifying the captured Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla as the second-in-command of the rebel group’s 10th Front, alias “Misael,” who is wanted for extradition by the United States.
Earlier Wednesday, President Juan Manuel Santos had said on Twitter that a “heavy blow” had been dealt to the FARC, the Andean nation’s largest rebel army, in an area near the Venezuelan border where the insurgents had killed 11 soldiers over the weekend.
The commander of the army’s 8th Division, Gen. Ernesto Maldonado, said in a phone interview with Caracol Radio from the neighboring province of Casanare that the operation took place in a rural zone outside the border town of Arauquita.
It began early Wednesday with an air force bombardment of rebel positions before an army mobile brigade disembarked from helicopters, the general said.
The guerillas who perished in the attack “commanded (the rebels) who killed the soldiers,” Maldonado said, referring to an ambush on Saturday in which a non-commissioned officer and 10 enlisted men were slain.
The soldiers, who belonged to a battalion deployed to guard energy infrastructure, were ambushed at their camp outside Arauquita.
On Tuesday, three rebels were killed and four others were captured in military operations in that same region.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation. EFE