Colombia Uses Fighter Jets Against Guerrillas With AM-Colombia
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Using A-37 fighter jets donated by Washington to help in the drug war here, the military attacked leftist guerrilla strongholds in six states Monday, Caracol radio network quoted military sources as saying.
The fighting reportedly involved rebels from the three most active guerrilla groups - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the National Liberation Army and the People’s Liberation Army.
For the first time since the United States donated the A-37s last September as part of a $65-million aid package to help Colombia fight its illicit cocaine industry, the military was reported using the aircraft to fight guerrillas.
The Bush administration placed no restrictions on the use of the donated equipment.
Three soldiers died and 10 were wounded in battles with guerrillas near Yondo in northwestern Antioquia state and San Pablo in northern Bolivar state, Caracol reported. The radio network said military officials did not list guerrilla casualties.
Caracol said the military bombed Yondo, forcing many townspeople to flee to Medellin, the state capital. It did not say whether A-37s did the bombing.
The A-37 is a ground support aircraft that can be used for reconnaissance, strafing and bombing.
The Defense Ministry press office was not answering phone calls on Monday, a holiday in Colombia.
Authorities found the body of Mayor Ricardo Alfonso Castellanos of Achi, a town 525 miles north the capital, three days after guerrillas of the National Liberation Army - known as the ELN - kidnapped him, Caracol reported.
The ELN accused Castellanos of cooperating with the army in the region, Caracol quoted an army official as saying.
The official said the mayor’s body showed signs of torture.
In another attack attributed to the ELN, a dynamite bombing Saturday killed Mayor Carlos Julio Torrado of Abrego, 250 miles northeast of Bogota, his son and two other officials.
Guerrilla action left more than 20 people dead in the first week of 1990, the army official was quoted as saying.