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30 Die in Colombia Rebel Attacks

March 27, 2000

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Fierce guerrilla attacks on two northern fishing towns killed at least 30 people over the weekend, including 24 police officers, a mayor, and two children.

At least seven police were taken prisoner by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Colombia’s largest leftist insurgency, officials said. Four other officers were missing.

Troops regained control Sunday night of Vigia del Fuerte _ site of the worst clash _ and found the riverfront town of 1,200 in ruins.

Rebel machine-gun fire and homemade missiles destroyed the church, the mayor’s office, the police barracks, the telephone company and 10 houses near the main plaza in the town near Colombia’s border with Panama.

Twenty-one police officers died trying to repel the 36-hour barrage that began Saturday. Six civilians also lost their lives, including the mayor, Pastor Perea, and two children, the Antioquia state government reported.

``It was a merciless attack,″ Fernando Aristizabal, a top state official told Colombia’s Caracol Radio.

The rebels also hit Bojaya, a nearby town in neighboring Choco State, where Aristizabal reported three police officers killed, seven taken prisoner and four missing.

Rebels attacks on rural towns and remote military installations are continuing despite ongoing peace talks with the government of President Andres Pastrana. The two are negotiating without a cease-fire.

The rebels are suspected of setting off a car bomb Sunday that killed a police cadet and injured 16 civilians in a crowded market in Girardot, a popular tourist spot 60 miles south of Bogota.

Update hourly