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 Saturday, 28 December, 2002, 01:38 GMT
Colombian rebel attack kills 60
FARC soldiers on a training mission
FARC is exploiting weakness in the paramilitaries

Colombian Marxist rebels have attacked their right-wing paramilitary enemies of the United Self-defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) in the northern province of Bolivar.

At least 60 people were killed in the fighting, the majority paramilitaries, which were driven from the area.

The right-wing paramilitaries of the AUC have called a ceasefire and are looking to start a peace process with the government.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
President Uribe has given the paramilitaries resources
Their hated enemies, the Marxist guerrillas, took advantage of this in the northern province of Bolivar and attacked a camp of 300 right-wing fighters.

Four hundred rebels from two of the largest guerrilla armies, the FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the smaller National Liberation Army or ELN, joined forces for the attack and over-ran the paramilitary camp of Cerraozul.

Local television showed images of trenches filled with paramilitary dead and the rebels in control of the zone.

Paramilitaries weakened

The paramilitaries are seeking to demobilise after their organisations fragmented over the issue of drugs.

The largest group in the AUC, led by feared warlord Carlos Castanao, wanted to sever links with the drugs trade which provides most of the group's income.

Other elements were not so enthusiastic.

The guerrillas, particularly the FARC, have exploited the new paramilitary weakness, launching a series of brutal attacks on their strongholds.

The armed forces, despite massive injections of resources by the hardline government of Alvaro Uribe and the United States, were nowhere to be seen in the combat zone and have shown no willingness to stray into an area where guerrilla columns are on the offensive.

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20 Dec 02 | Politics
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