IMAGE: PEDRO MONTOYA
Fernando Vergara  /  AP
Former Colombian rebel Pedro Montoya, center, walks escorted by soldiers to a news conference at a military base in Pereira, Colombia, on March 8. Montoya killed his boss, Ivan Rios.
updated 3/14/2008 4:11:56 PM ET 2008-03-14T20:11:56

Colombia's defense minister said Friday that the government will pay a bounty to a rebel who killed his boss, a member of the guerrillas' ruling junta, and delivered the slain man's severed hand as proof.

The guerrilla who killed the rebel leader known as Ivan Rios will receive a share of up to $2.7 million in reward money, said Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. He said the rest of the money would be divided among three informants who provided information to the army on Rios' whereabouts.

There has been fierce debate in Colombia over whether paying the guerrilla, a member of Rios' security detail, will encourage rebels to commit murder. Some columnists have said that such payments would amount to blood money.

The announcement of Rios' death on March 7 was a devastating blow to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, coming just a week after the group's chief spokesman, Raul Reyes was killed in a cross-border commando raid into Ecuador.

The guerrilla defector, Pablo Montoya, says he killed Rios in self-defense, fearing Rios planned to have him executed.

Montoya shot Rios, whose real name was Manuel Jesus Munoz, and his girlfriend as they slept, then walked out of the rebel camp with Rios' memory sticks, passport and hacked off hand to present to the army. Rios' body was later recovered. Montoya is now living on a military base.

Santos said the rebel, known by the alias Rojas, would receive reward money for the information contained on the memory stick.

"Thanks to the information provided by alias Rojas, military operations continue developing in the area and keep advancing," Santos said in a news conference.

"The case of Ivan Rios shows us the deterioration in the morale of the FARC," he added.

Some leading Colombian jurists have suggested that rather than being rewarded, Montoya should be investigated for murder.

Even President Alvaro Uribe said earlier this week, "A country of laws cannot encourage massacres."

But some argued that if the government refused to pay the reward money, other guerrillas would think twice before betraying their superiors.

The U.S. State Department has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of any of the seven members of the FARC's ruling secretariat. The reward also offers to "relocate these individuals and their families."

U.S. officials have so far declined comment on whether they would consider giving Montoya reward money.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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