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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 January, 2004, 02:41 GMT
Captured Colombia rebel sent home
Ricardo Palmera is escorted by specials forces at the military base in Bogota, Colombia, following his deportation from Ecuador
Palmera protested as he was dragged away
A senior commander of the Colombian left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC, has been deported following his capture in Ecuador.

Ricardo Palmera, better known as Simon Trinidad, is the most senior member of the FARC to be caught so far.

He was arrested at a clinic in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito, in a joint operation with Colombian forces.

Mr Palmera is expected to face more than 30 charges, including kidnapping and murder.


His capture is being heralded by the Colombian government as a serious setback to the rebel movement.

The Colombian military said that his arrest was the result not just of Colombian and Ecuadorean efforts but also of the United States - which is deeply involved in the Colombian civil conflict.

FARC commander Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad) at a press conference in Los Pozos in 2002
Palmera is the most senior FARC leader caught in 40 years of conflict
Mr Uribe - a staunch US ally - has made the defeat of the rebels a key objective of his administration.

Mr Palmera was captured by Colombian and Ecuadorean authorities on Friday while he was being treated at a clinic in the south of the Ecuadorean capital Quito, Colombian officials said.

He was receiving treatment for leishmaniasis, a disease common in Colombia's jungles.

"We had been tracking him for months and he arrived at a health centre, apparently sick, and we captured him," a Colombian police commander told Reuters news agency.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota says Mr Trinidad is the most senior FARC commander to be captured in almost 40 years of fighting - although he is not a member of the guerrillas' seven-man ruling body.


Mr Palmera, unlike most FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, comes from a wealthy family, and before he joined the rebels he was a bank manager.

Mr Palmera rapidly moved up the FARC ranks, becoming a member of the group's general staff. The 22-member body is in charge of the 16,000-strong rebel army.

If convicted, he could be jailed for at least 30 years.

The Colombian government had a $820,000 reward on Mr Palmera's head.

"Countrymen: The capture of a FARC leader shows that terrorism will never triumph," President Uribe told reporters.

FARC and a smaller rebel group, ELN, right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian government have been fighting each other for four decades.

In the past decade alone, more than 35,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott
"He is the most senior FARC commander arrested in almost 40 years of fighting"

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