Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Suspected Colombian rebels kidnap provincial governor

Luis Fernando Cuellar - photo courtesy Semana magazine
The governor is said to have requested protection

A Colombian provincial governor has been seized by gunmen dressed in military uniforms, the authorities say.

Luis Fernando Cuellar, the governor of Caqueta, was seized from his house in the provincial capital, Florencia.

A police officer died in the attack, which officials said was the work of left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas.

Caqueta, close to the Colombian Amazon, has been a stronghold of the Farc for many years.

Edilberto Ramon Endo, secretary of the government of Caqueta province, said Mr Cuellar had been forced out of his home by the gunmen, who lobbed a grenade and exchanged fire with security guards.

The attackers were wearing army uniforms but were believed to be Farc rebels, he said.

An operation to rescue the governor is under way.

The Farc is Colombia's oldest and largest left-wing rebel group.

The rurally-based organisation was once thought to have some 16,000 fighters, but reports suggest it now has about 9,000.

The Farc has suffered several defeats at the hands of conservative President Alvaro Uribe's security forces.

The incidence of attacks and kidnappings has lessened.

But the rebels are still holding more than 20 police officers and soldiers, often referred to as high-profile hostages, who were seized more than a decade ago.

They are also believed to have kidnapped hundreds of other people, mainly for ransom, over the years.

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