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Guerrillas Kill Two Colombian Mayors

October 8, 2003

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Leftist guerrillas assassinated two town mayors in southeastern Colombia after they met with rebels in a mountain hideout, authorities said Tuesday, while the army suffered a double blow to its reputation.

Orlando Hoyos and Jaime Zambrano were killed Monday after holding talks with Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the mountainous Cauca region, said Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora, the commander of Colombia’s armed forces.

Hoyos, the mayor of Bolivar, was driving back from the meeting called to discuss alleged ties to rightist paramilitary factions when his convoy was ambushed along a rural road near San Sebastian, 250 miles southeast of the capital, Bogota, said Cauca Gov. Floro Alberto Tunubala.

Mora said suspected members of a smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, killed Zambrano, the mayor of nearby Santa Rosa, but he did not provide details.

Separately, a judge ordered the release Tuesday of a senior ELN leader, Felipe Torres, after serving nine years at a high-security jail for guerrilla-related activities.

The move came after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had urged Torres and other jailed ELN leaders to become ``fighters for peace.″

But Uribe said Monday’s killings would only serve to strengthen his campaign to crush the rebels on the battlefield.

``There is no other way than to root out terrorism,″ he said. ``The country needs the return of institutional authority.″

Meanwhile, an army officer and two soldiers were arrested Tuesday for alleged involvement in the murder of a local businessman in Santa Ana, Guillermo Reinoso Guevara.

And a government oversight body revealed it had begun disciplinary proceedings against a general and three officers in a botched rescue attempt of a former Cabinet minister, who was executed by leftist rebels as government troops moved in.

A detailed report by the inspector-general’s office criticized the Colombian Army’s attempts to rescue former Culture Minister Consuelo Araujo Noguera, who was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, two years ago.

The report said military commanders should have more carefully planned and carried out the rescue mission, alleging that the troops’ hasty nighttime attack on the kidnappers in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Sept. 29, 2001, led to Araujo Noguera’s death.

``The planning and execution of the analyzed military operation was not adequate,″ said the report, which was dated Sept. 18 and posted on the inspector-general’s official Web site this week.

It said that Araujo Noguera was shot and killed allegedly by FARC rebels as troops stormed an Indian village where the kidnappers and hostages had taken shelter.

The report said Gen. Gabriel Contreras, commander of the army’s First Division, was allegedly responsible for a ``very grave″ dereliction of duty in not deploying his forces properly and for failing to have them continue to chase the rebels after Araujo Noguera was killed. Three junior officers were also named.

Uribe, however, spoke out in support of the army.

``They are our compatriots who carry the nation’s arms to defend us and the constitution,″ he said in a statement Tuesday.

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