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FARC number 2 has been killed in combat near Colombia-Ecuador border

Andean diplomatic crisis > Breaking news

Saturday 1 March 2008 12:13 COT

Este artículo está disponible en ESPAÑOL

Luis Édgar Devia Silva, aka Raúl Reyes, the number 2 commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been killed by security forces, Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday morning.

According to Mr Santos, "human sources and information verified by the State’s intelligence" told Colombian authorities that guerrilla fighters from FARC’s 48th front would meet with Reyes in Granada, a place near Colombia’s border with Ecuador on Friday night. An joint operation of Colombia’s Military Forces and National Police was held starting at 0:25 local time (5:25 UTC) on Saturday.

Colombian Air Force bombed a guerrilla camp, located 1.8 km from the border inside Ecuador, near Santa Rosa, from Colombia’s air space. Guerrilla responded with shooting, killing one Colombian soldier, Carlos Hernández León. According to Santos, Raúl Reyes and Guillermo Enrique Torres, aka Julián Conrado, with other 15 guerrillas, were killed. Their corpses were recovered by Colombian authorities, after the camp was surrounded and Ecuadorian Armed Forces arrived there.

Santos said president Álvaro Uribe Vélez spoke to his Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa about the operation, and congratulated his men, saying that this was an example that "team work gives better results". Questions from journalists were not allowed.

Devia Silva was born in La Plata, Huila, southwestern Colombia, on 30 September 1948. Before joining FARC in the 1970s, he was part of a workers’ union at a Nestlé plant in Caquetá department. He was close to FARC’s top commander Pedro Antonio Marín, aka Manuel Marulanda Vélez or Tirofijo ("Sureshot"), and participated in the negotiations with Andrés Pastrana’s administration during the failed peace process. Raúl Reyes had been charged with rebellion, kidnapping, drug dealing, robbery, and child traffic and molestation, among others.

According to weekly newspaper El Espectador’s website, Liliana López, aka Gloria, Devia’s sentimental partner, and another guerrilla women who would conform his security ring, may have been killed too. Reyes, who acted as a spokesperson in behalf of the terrorist group, could be replaced by Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas, aka Alfonso Cano, who is ideologically a hard liner but allegedly more willing to negotiate with Colombian government. Sáenz is the leader of the FARC’s clandestine political branch, the so-called Clandestine Colombian Communist Party (PC3). Reyes is the first member of FARC’s Secretariat killed in combat.

This killing happens three days after FARC released four congresspeople who were taken hostages between 5 and 6 years ago, thanks to the negotiations by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and Colombian liberal senator Piedad Córdoba. FARC hold around 760 hostages, including 40 captives (among them former presidential candidate and French citizen Íngrid Betancourt and three American defence contractors), who FARC wish to "trade" in exchange of imprisoned guerrillas.

This article was published 1 March 2008 on equinoXio. Translated from Spanish by Julián Ortega Martínez

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