Colombian military kills FARC leader in country’s southwest

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (BNO NEWS) -- The top leader of the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was killed on Friday during a military operation in the country's southwest, officials said on early Saturday.

The operation took place in the rural area of Suarez in the Cauca Department on Friday morning when Colombia's Armed Forces attacked a FARC camp. Special forces who carried out a first attack pulled back when they noticed the guerrilla forces did not retaliate, only to return two hours later with a much stronger offensive.

FARC leader Guillermo Leon Saenz, better known as Alfonso Cano, 63, had been forced to seek refuge two months ago after fleeing from his stronghold in the south of Tolima Department. He had since been tailed by armed forces, although his exact location was unknown until Friday.

Colombia's Defense Ministry said forensic laboratory tests had confirmed the death of Cano, who is believed to have been killed during the clashes with government troops. A photo of his body was released to the media as a warning to other FARC members.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon congratulated Colombian troops who have been "sacrificing themselves" for the country. He said terrorism has "no future" and underlined the importance of Cano's death for not only the country but for the world.

"Today, many of those affected by [Cano's] kidnappings, extortion and assassinations, should feel much calmer," Pinson said. He also called on guerrilla troops to leave their posts. "Across the country we will continue with offensive operations, giving the country the security it requires."

In addition to Cano, at least three other FARC members were also killed during the operations. Among those was a woman who is believed to have been Cano's girlfriend and a radio operator who had been in the ranks of FARC for more than 14 years.

Cano became the leader of FARC in March 2008 following the death of Pedro Antonio Marin, who was also known as Manuel Marulanda or Tirofijo.

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