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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 18:25 GMT
Colombia 'suicide squad' man held
By Jeremy McDermott
BBC correspondent in Colombia

The Colombian secret police, the DAS, have arrested a guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) who had allegedly been setting up a cell of suicide bombers.

Farc rebels in training
Suicide bombings would have been a new tactic for the Farc
Luis Hipolito Ospina, alias "the Muslim", who is actually a practising Muslim, was arrested in the capital, Bogota, after one of the guerrillas whom he indoctrinated turned himself in rather than carry out a suicide mission.

"The Muslim" was a familiar sight during the days of the failed peace process with the previous government of Andres Pastrana.

For three years he ran the social programme of the Farc in their 42,000sq km safe haven, the venue for peace talks.

Bearded and devout, he spoke of the divine mission of revolution to fight for equality for Colombia's poor.

Now he is in a prison cell, accused of training 22 youths to be suicide bombers.

One of the youths, known only as Heriberto, turned himself in to authorities before he was due to blow himself up at the army headquarters of the southern city of Florencia.

The Farc have traditionally been anti-religious, in keeping with traditional Marxism.

But according to the secret police, the rebel high command agreed to allow "The Muslim" to set up his suicide squad so that their sworn enemy, hardline President Alvaro Uribe, could be killed by one of the bombers.

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