FARC dissidents killed in border operation: Colombian army

Bogota: Sixteen dissident members of Colombian former guerrilla group FARC were killed in a military operation on the border with Venezuela, the army has said.

"We will not lower our guard against these criminals," President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on Twitter.

The operation was carried out in the municipality of Fortul, in the South American country's department of Arauca, the army statement said yesterday.

The statement gave few details of the military action, but Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas told reporters that a prominent rebel commander, Alex Rendon, could be among the dead.

The army said the group was responsible for attacks on a local hospital, oil infrastructure and security forces in the area.

It said the group had combined with local leaders of the National Liberation Army, or ELN by its Spanish acronym, to try to control drug trafficking in the departments of Arauca, Boyaca and Casanare, as well as coordinate "extortion activities, arms trafficking and the articulation of terrorist plans." The ELN is currently in peace talks with Santos' government.

Santos signed a 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's largest rebel group, which has since transformed into a political party.

But around 1,200 dissident combatants refused to lay down their arms and continue to operate in various parts of Colombia. This was the biggest operation yet against the rebel holdouts.

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