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'Colombian Farc rebels' killed in Ecuador

By Irene Caselli
Quito

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Two alleged Colombian guerrillas have died in Ecuador after clashes with the country's armed forces, Ecuador's military has announced.

It said a shootout took place on Sunday during a routine patrol in the north-eastern province of Sucumbios, on the border between Ecuador and Colombia.

A man and a woman who were killed allegedly belonged to the Farc - the largest of Colombia's guerrilla groups.

Authorities said they found two assault rifles and explosives.

Communications equipment, 10 backpacks containing food, "subversive literature" and military and civilian clothes were also seized, according to the joint command of Ecuador's armed forces.

Tense relations

Last month, Ecuador's military announced the destruction of a Farc camp located in the border area between the provinces of Carchi and Sucumbios, which was used to manufacture explosives.

The military says that in 2009 it located 187 clandestine camps on its territory belonging to Colombian irregular armed groups.

Ecuadorean soldier examines the remains of the Farc camp after the Colombian raid - 3/3/2008
Colombia insists the Farc camp was a legitimate military target

The Ecuadorean government increased the presence of its troops along the 420-mile (680km) border with Colombia after the Colombian army carried out an unauthorised cross-border raid on a Farc rebel camp on 1 March 2008.

Twenty-five people, including Farc's number two commander Raul Reyes, were killed in the raid, which also led Ecuador to freeze diplomatic relations with its northern neighbour.

The two countries have since agreed to restore low-level diplomatic and commercial relations, but the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Ecuadorean territory remains a bone of contention.

While Ecuador still claims the raid was an abuse of sovereignty, Colombia argues that files belonging to Raul Reyes found in the 2008 raid indicated complicity between Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's government and the Farc.

Quito is demanding hard evidence of such accusations, but Bogota continues to refuse to provide the actual files.

In Sunday's televised debate among contenders in Colombia's presidential elections next month, two of six aspiring leaders said they would conduct another raid into Ecuador if necessary.

"If similar circumstances to those that Colombia lived in that moment [in 2008] came up, yes, I would do it again," said Noemi Sanin of the Conservative Party.

Juan Manuel Santos, who was the defence minister at the time of the 2008 raid, and is now running for president with the Social Party of National Unity of current President Alvaro Uribe, said he was "proud" of having acted "firmly to attack terrorists wherever they are".



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