June 6, 2010 / 7:30 PM / 10 years ago

Colombian air force says kills six rebels in attack

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian military planes struck a leftist rebel camp on Sunday, killing six guerrillas in a raid in the south of the Andean nation, its air force said.

Violence during the country’s long insurgency has declined over the past eight years but fighting, bombings and kidnappings are still common, especially in remote, jungle areas bordering Venezuela and Ecuador.

“There were six (rebels) killed, seven captured and two guerrillas wounded, who were first given help and then later placed in the hands of authorities,” Colombia’s air force said in a statement.

Soldiers later occupied the FARC rebel camp in an area of Caqueta state, some 186 miles southeast of Bogota, where troops found arms and communications equipment, the statement said.

Rebels have been driven back to remote areas after a U.S.-backed offensive battered the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other armed groups.

In a statement, FARC announced that it was holding a marine who went missing in a rebel attack at the end of May that killed nine marines in Caqueta state.

Caqueta is one of the regions where rebels still maintain a strong presence and have resisted a military push ordered by President Alvaro Uribe upon taking power in 2002.

Uribe, Washington’s strongest ally in the region, steps down in August after two terms marked by a hardline stance against illegal armed groups and a surge in foreign investment especially in mining and energy.

Top candidates for the nation’s highest office — former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and independent Antanas Mockus — have vowed to continue with Uribe’s security policies whoever wins a June 20 second-round election.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Eric Beech

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