QUITO – President Rafael Correa confirmed Wednesday that Ecuadorian soldiers killed three leftist rebels from neighboring Colombia two days ago during a clash along the border.
“Our soldiers were able to defend themselves and the three casualties were on the part of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia),” the president said in a statement released by his press office.
Correa said Ecuador’s armed forces are in better shape to protect the northern border thanks to efforts over the past two years to shore up military capabilities.
“Our soldiers are much better equipped and are no longer cannon fodder for anyone,” the president said, though adding that no one could be pleased with incidents resulting in death, no matter the identity of the victims.
Monday’s clash took place on the Opuno River in the Amazon province of Sucumbios, where an Ecuadorian army patrol came upon a boat carrying FARC fighters.
When the patrol ordered the Colombians to come ashore, the intruders opened fire and the Ecuadorian troops responded, killing three rebels.
Most of the 720 kilometer (447 mile) border between Ecuador and Colombia runs through dense Amazon jungles stalked by Colombian guerrillas, militias and drug smugglers.
Quito has repeatedly asked Colombia, whose U.S.-funded military is 10 times the size of Ecuador’s, to do more to stop Colombian irregulars from crossing the border.
The two countries recently began the process of repairing their diplomatic relations, severed by Correa in March 2008 after Bogota’s forces raided a clandestine FARC camp just inside Ecuadorian territory, killing 25 people, several of them civilians. EFE