Colombian rebels say killed governor, blame Uribe

Tue Jan 5, 2010 9:07pm EST

* Captured governor's throat slashed as army approached

* FARC guerrillas say they planned to put him on trial

By Hugh Bronstein

BOGOTA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Left-wing Colombian rebels said on Tuesday they killed a provincial governor soon after seizing him last month rather than trying him for corruption as planned, and blamed his death on an attempt to rescue him by force.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said in a statement that Governor Luis Cuellar of the southern jungle province of Caqueta was allied with right-wing paramilitary militias formed in the 1980s to fight the rebels.

"Despite the evident links between the governor and paramilitarism, the objective of retaining him was not to kill him or seek ransom but to put him on trial for corruption," the guerrillas said in a statement released on the www.anncol.eu website, which regularly carries FARC communications.

The 69-year-old official was snatched from his home on Dec. 21. The government and Cuellar's family speculate that he refused to cooperate with his abductors and was executed as an army search party closed in.

The theory was supported by the FARC statement, which said: "This undesired and tragic event is a direct consequence of the order given by (President) Alvaro Uribe to rescue hostages by force."

The kidnappers blasted open the door of Cuellar's home, killed a police guard and dragged the governor into a waiting jeep. His throat was slashed and his body was found less than 24 hours later near the abandoned and burned-out vehicle.

The news shocked Colombians and brought back memories of the bloodier days of the long conflict when guerrilla and paramilitary bombings, abductions and massacres made daily headlines.

It was the biggest political kidnapping since Uribe came to power in 2002. The short, bespectacled leader remains popular for his U.S.-backed crackdown on the FARC and may run for a third term next year if Colombia's constitution is changed to allow him to do so. (Editing by Eric Walsh)