At least five people, including four children, were wounded in attacks staged by FARC guerrillas this weekend on towns in the southwestern Colombian province of Cauca, army 28th Mobile Brigade commander Col. Martin Hernando Nieto told Efe.
Rebels from the Gabriel Galvis column of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, attacked army troops Friday night in Miranda, Nieto said by telephone.
“In addition to using the civilian population as a shield, they used non-conventional weapons that lack precision, affecting four children and an adult,” the brigade commander said.
The wounded civilians were treated at a hospital and later released, Nieto said.
Army troops have regained control of the area, the colonel said.
Soldiers engaged FARC rebels Saturday morning in Toribio, another town in Cauca, Nieto said.
There are no reports of any casualties from the fighting in Toribio, the brigade commander said.
At least 50 dwellings were damaged in the attacks, but residents have returned to their homes and resumed their daily activities, Nieto said.
Fighting between police and rebels in another town in Cauca, meanwhile, forced civilians to leave their homes, an Efe reporter confirmed at the scene.
The residents, the majority of them Nasa and Paez Indians, were forced from their homes in Toribio and went to shelters in nearby towns.
FARC guerrillas hid in the fields around the town and attacked officers, using snipers positioned in abandoned houses to pin down police.
A teacher was slightly injured by shrapnel, Toribio Mayor Esequiel Vitonas told Efe by telephone.
The FARC attacked Toribio 10 times during the first six months of this year, the mayor said.
Four people were killed in the town last year when the FARC detonated a truck packed with explosives.
The bombing destroyed 20 houses and damaged 170 others in the town, Vitonas said.
Toribio, Jambalo, Miranda and other towns in Cauca are frequently attacked by the FARC.
President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the deployment on June 13 of three additional army brigades and four battalions to root out National Liberation Army, or ELN, and FARC guerrillas.
The soldiers were deployed in Arauca and Norte de Santander provinces, which are on the border with Venezuela, as well as in Cauca and Nariño provinces.
The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, 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.
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.