updated 3/10/2004 8:15:05 PM ET 2004-03-11T01:15:05

Colombian troops clashed with leftist rebels and outlawed paramilitaries in separate offensives, killing 20 fighters and capturing 57 others, the army said Wednesday.

The fiercest fighting took place Tuesday in a rural area near Zetaquira, 80 miles northeast of Bogota, in which nine members of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were killed.

Among the dead was a regional FARC leader, Arcesio Angarilla, accused of carrying out attacks on energy targets and bridges, planting land mines and ordering several kidnappings, said the commander of the army’s Fifth Division, Gen. Hernan Alonso Ortiz.

Two other FARC rebels died in fighting Tuesday in a remote area in Tolima province, southeast of Bogota, while one guerrilla was killed in combat in the Sucre region, to the north of the capital. Another 40 suspected rebels were rounded up in separate operations over the past 24 hours across the country, the army said in a statement.

Soldiers also killed eight right-wing paramilitary fighters during clashes in a rural area near Ginebra, 170 miles southwest of Bogota. Seventeen suspected paramilitaries were also captured, including a regional financial chief.

Colombia’s civil war, now in its 40th year, pits two leftist rebel groups against right-wing paramilitary factions and government forces. An estimated 3,500 people are killed every year.

Separately, paramilitary chief Carlos Castano was sentenced in absentia to 38 years in prison for ordering the assassination of a popular journalist who had lobbied for the release of FARC hostages and met with rebel leaders several times, a lawyer for the victim’s family said Wednesday.

Lawyer Alirio Uribe said a Bogota court convicted Castano on Tuesday after an investigation that nevertheless failed to identify the two hired gunmen who shot Jaime Garzon as he headed to his office at the Radionet radio station in Bogota in 1998.

Castano, who is in hiding to avoid arrest on numerous charges ranging from terrorism to homicide as well as U.S. charges of drug trafficking, has denied he ordered Garzon’s murder. Castano is currently pursuing peace talks with the government aimed at disbanding his 12,000-strong faction by 2006.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments