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Friday, 29 September, 2000, 23:53 GMT 00:53 UK
Colombian rebels target US troops
Colombian army unit
Colombian army needs help to beat the drugs gangs
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota

Colombia's largest rebel group has released a statement saying that US troops in combat zones will be considered military targets.

The communique from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) was unexpected and unequivocal.

US navy unloafds cocaine haul
US navy seized 5,300 pounds of Colombian cocaine in mid-September
Signed by one of the top Farc commanders, Andres Paris, the statement warned that from now on any US troops found in combat zones would be considered military targets.

The US recently approved a $1.3bn aid package, consisting of mainly military supplies and training.

The centrepiece of the package is three US trained and equipped anti-narcotics battalions. To train these battalions, the US Congress has approved the deployment of up to 500 military personnel at any one time in Colombia.

Rebel stronghold

The main base for these US-supplied counter-drug assets is Tres Esquinas, a military complex in the province of Putumayo, where the aid will be used against the region's estimated 60,000 hectares of coca, the raw material for cocaine.

Colombia map
The area is also a Farc stronghold and they have already said they will resist the expected military offensive in the area.

A Farc source within the units in Putumayo and neighbouring Caqueta told the BBC that they had already reccied the Tres Esquinas military base and were preparing surprises for the US-trained troops and particularly the 60 US helicopters that will be used to ferry them around.

The Farc have vowed to turn Colombia into another Vietnam for the Americans and have condemned the US aid as intervention - intervention to which they are not afraid to respond.

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See also:

21 Sep 00 | Americas
Colombian army frees hostages
09 Sep 00 | Americas
Hijacked Colombian plane released
18 Sep 00 | Americas
Mass abduction from Cali restaurants
29 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
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