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Ecuador, Mexico probe deaths of Mexicans in raid
March 6, 2008 / 10:06 PM / 10 years ago

Ecuador, Mexico probe deaths of Mexicans in raid

QUITO, March 6 (Reuters) - Ecuador and Mexico are investigating whether up to 10 Mexicans, possibly students and professors, died in a weekend air strike that killed a top Colombian rebel leader and sparked a heated diplomatic dispute in the Andean region.

Mexican student Lucia Morett, in her 20s, was wounded in the attack on the rebel base and is being held and treated at a military hospital in Ecuador. Her father told Mexican media she was a drama student working on an academic thesis in Ecuador.

Colombian forces bombed a rebel camp in Ecuador, killing the No. 2 leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The incursion infuriated Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who sent troops to its border and cut diplomatic ties with Bogota.

More than 20 others died in the attack.

"There are chances that some of those bodies are Mexicans," Ecuador’s Security Minister Gustavo Larrea told reporters in Quito on Thursday. He said five Mexican families were working with Ecuador to try to identify bodies.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said it was working with Ecuador to establish whether there were Mexicans other than Morett in the camp.

Morett’s presence at the cap sparked speculation in Mexico and Colombia that FARC rebels have a support organization in Mexico. But other reports said the Mexicans who may have died in the camp were there to study the FARC.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico, the country’s biggest public university, said in a statement that Morett had studied there and said it was concerned other people from the university may have been killed.

Morett was one of three women rescued by Ecuadorean soldiers from the clearing where the attack took place.

Correa, a leftist former economy minister, has gathered support in his condemnation of Colombia’s raid from Brazil, Peru and Mexico.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a Correa ally, also mobilized troops to the border with Colombia and warned that a similar operation on its soil would lead to war.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said his forces had to act alone in killing a rebel FARC leader because Ecuador allows the guerrillas to take refuge there. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; writing by Alonso Soto; editing by Fiona Ortiz and Philip Barbara)



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