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Colombia rebels kill 2 police, set off "horse bomb"

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian rebels shot dead two policemen in one attack and wounded two soldiers with a horse packed with explosives in another Sunday as Bogota vowed to beef up security in a violence-hit southwestern state.

Colombia has been battling leftist rebels for nearly five decades and while security has improved drastically over the last few years, illegal armed groups continue to stage bombings, hit-and-run attacks and other bloodshed.

Police said two officers were shot dead in the southwest state of Cauca Sunday -- the same province where a day before rebels detonated a car bomb, a bus bomb and another explosive device.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that he was sending reinforcements of police, army and special forces to Cauca, an area plagued by drug and guerrilla violence.

Santos also said that Colombia would create another mountain battalion for the area.

“We’ve taken the measure that from now on, security personnel will destroy any house that is used by terrorists to attack government forces or civilians. No more utilizing houses to shoot at government forces or at civilians,” he said.

Local media also reported Sunday that suspected FARC rebels had detonated a horse packed with explosives, injuring two soldiers, in the southern province of Caqueta.

The security situation has worsened this year in the departments of Cauca, Caqueta, Norte de Santander, Arauca and Antioquia, according to the Colombian think-tank Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris.

The attacks came a week after the leader of the FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, narrowly eluded capture by security forces. The FARC has stepped up violence recently in the world’s No. 1 cocaine producer.

Santos, who took office last August, has vowed to keep up former President Alvaro Uribe’s tough stance against left-wing rebels, paramilitary gangs and cocaine traffickers.

Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman