Two guerrillas were killed and one was wounded in counterinsurgency operations launched over the weekend by the army after the FARC rebel group staged ambushes in northwestern Colombia, killing two civilians and a police officer, military spokesmen said.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas staged the ambushes Friday night outside Ituango, a town in Antioquia province.
The dead and wounded rebels were found Saturday by army troops deployed to fight the guerrillas, the army’s 7th Division said.
The wounded guerrilla was airlifted to a hospital in Antioquia, the army said.
The unidentified rebel is “the material author of the murders of the two civilians and the National Police patrolman,” the army said.
The civilians and the officer died in two ambushes staged by the FARC’s 18th Front on the outskirts of Ituango.
The officer was a member of a patrol sent to the area in the wake of the civilians’ killings, Antioquia police commander Col. Gustavo Chavarro said Saturday.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation.
The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
The FARC has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years at the hands of the Colombian security forces.
Alfonso Cano, the FARC’s top leader, was killed on Nov. 4 in a military and police operation that the government hailed as the biggest blow to the FARC in its nearly 50-year history.
Cano, a 63-year-old intellectual who had entered the ranks of the FARC 30 years ago, was killed in in a remote area of the southwestern province of Cauca a few hours after fleeing a bombardment.
The FARC also suffered a series of blows in 2008, with the biggest coming in July of that year, when the Colombian army rescued a group of high-profile rebel-held captives: former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers.
The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC’s main means of financing its operations.