Page last updated at 11:14 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Kidnapped Colombian governor found with throat slit


The vehicle that police suspect was used to transport the kidnapped governor

The governor of the southern Colombian province of Caqueta has been found dead less than a day after he was kidnapped by suspected rebels, authorities say.

President Alvaro Uribe said the kidnappers had cut Luis Francisco Cuellar's throat as they were being chased by security forces.

Mr Cuellar was seized from his house on Monday in the provincial capital.

Officials are blaming the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas for his killing.

Mr Cuellar was the most high-profile politician abducted since Mr Uribe came to power in 2002.

Luis Fernando Cuellar (file image)
Luis Francisco Cuellar had been kidnapped several times before

"The terrorists burned the vehicle in which they kidnapped the governor, further ahead they killed him, they slit his throat, they killed him miserably," said President Uribe, in a nationally televised address.

"They slit his throat to avoid making noise because they knew that the armed forces were in the surrounding area.

"In the midst of pain we reiterate today all our determination to defeat these terrorists."

Earlier, Mr Uribe, whose father was killed in 1983 during a botched kidnapping by rebels, had said Colombia could not be "held captive by the whim of terrorists, terrorists who bathe the country in blood and who trick us every day".

Ransom offered

Mr Cuellar was taken from his home by about 10 gunmen, who lobbed grenades at the building. One policeman was killed in the attack and two more were wounded.


More than 2,000 military personnel had been deployed in the search for the kidnappers.

The authorities had also offered 1bn pesos ($500,000; £312,000) to anyone giving information leading to Mr Cuellar's safe return.

But his body was found hours later, close to a burnt-out vehicle on a road about 15km (9 miles) outside Florencia.

He had been bound and gagged and had several bullet wounds in his body. Explosives had been placed around him.

It remains unclear whether the kidnappers initially intended to kill Mr Cuellar, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia.

In the past, high-profile figures have been kidnapped to try to force the government to make prisoner exchanges.

Mr Cuellar had previously been kidnapped four times in the past 23 years, but for ransom, his wife told the Associated Press news agency.

New leadership

Caqueta has been a stronghold of the Farc - Colombia's oldest and largest left-wing rebel group - for many years.

Farc rebels (file image)

It was where French-Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped in 2002.

The Farc has not claimed responsibility for the attack on Mr Cuellar, but is widely thought to have been behind it.

The acting governor of Caqueta, Patricia Vega, told local media she had no doubt that the Farc was responsible.

The guerrillas, who finance their operations through drugs trafficking, were thought to number some 16,000 fighters, but analysts suggest their ranks have fallen to about 9,000.

They suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the security forces in 2008, but the rebels appear to have rallied under new leadership and to be seeking to regain the initiative in the country's 45-year civil conflict, our correspondent says.

Attacks and kidnappings have lessened, but the guerrillas 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.

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

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