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Colombia forces kill 'key rebel'

Colombian military ceremony, 5 August 2005
The Colombian military has put the Farc under pressure

A Colombian rebel commander wanted for hundreds of killings and kidnappings has been killed in an air force bombing raid, officials say.

Among the killings attributed to the rebel, known as El Paisa, were the 2003 deaths of eight hostages, among them a former defence minister.

In another development, officials are said to have gleaned key data on Farc rebels from a computer memory stick.

The USB drive was captured during a raid against the rebels in February.

The Farc commander, full name Aicardo de Jesus Agudelo, was killed on Sunday in an air raid near the western province of Choco, Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos told a news conference.

El Paisa came to national prominence in 2003 when eight hostages held by the rebels were killed as an army rescue mission approached.

The dead included a former defence minister, Gilberto Echeverry, and the governor of Antioquia, Guillermo Gaviria.

"He not only ordered that they be kidnapped, he ordered that they be executed," Mr Santos said.

"He was a high-value target for us, considering his cruelty and the damage he had done to the civilian population and the army."

The Farc, which has waged a 44-year civil war in Colombia, holds several hundred hostages.

The government says the rebels, who have suffered several big blows to their leadership in recent months, are under pressure.

Details

Colombian media on Monday reported that a special anti-terror unit in the attorney general's office had discovered key information after analysing a computer memory stick seized during clashes with rebels in February.

The information is said to include details of 9,387 Farc members of the Eastern Bloc, one of the rebels' most powerful fighting divisions.

Among the information were names, aliases and photographs as well as details of which front they belonged to.

The data also reportedly reveals that in recent years some 113 rebels have been shot for a variety of crimes while 286 died trying to escape the guerrillas' ranks.




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