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Colombian Rebels Kill 3 Policemen

October 22, 2002

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Rebels invaded an Indian village, killing three police officers and terrorizing residents before the air force counterattacked, leaving dozens of insurgents dead, authorities and witnesses said Monday.

An estimated 70 rebels were killed when a Colombian air force AC-47 fixed-wing gunship strafed two trucks Sunday carrying rebels and explosives, said Col. Jose Edgar Herrera, police chief of Cauca state, where the fighting broke out.

The number of dead could not be independently verified, but Herrera said a precise count would be available later.

The attack began Sunday when some 300 rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, fired mortars into the mountain village of Belalcazar, heavily damaging several homes and slightly wounding some civilians, police said.

``The community was very scared, we all went into hiding,″ Isabelina Tenorio, a resident of the town of 20,000, told Caracol radio.

Eighteen police officers fought back, but the rebels captured two of them. The insurgents killed the two policemen despite the pleas of residents, Herrera said.

The body of another police officer was found outside the village on Monday, he said.

Residents outside the village, 190 miles southwest of the capital, Bogota, informed authorities when they saw the two rebel trucks on a rural road, resulting in the attack by the gunship.

Some 3,500 people die every year in Colombia’s 38-year war, which pits the FARC and a smaller rebel group against U.S.-backed government forces and illegal right-wing paramilitaries.

Most of the victims are civilians. Early Monday morning, a city council member in the central Colombian town of Palestina was shot and killed while leaving work, police said. Luis Eduardo Munoz had not received any specific threats, police Col. Rafael Palominos told Radionet.

Earlier this year, the FARC issued a blanket threat to all mayors, governors and city council members around the country that they would be killed if they didn’t resign their posts. More than 40 city council members have been killed this year so far.

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