Colombian forces have killed at least 20 Marxist Farc guerrillas in an air and ground raid near the border with Ecuador, an army general said, the deadliest strike against rebels since a peace process started.
Despite talks to end 50 years of war, Colombia’s government has vowed to keep up military operations even while the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, called a two-month ceasefire as the two sides try to hash out a deal.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos is hoping a decade of blows against Farc has left the group sufficiently weakened to seek an end to the war.
An airstrike followed by a ground assault on three Farc camps in the southwestern Narino department killed at least 20 rebels late on Sunday.
General Leonardo Barrero, head of the Joint Command South-west, said the number of dead could be higher.
Gen Barrero said that security forces have so far been able to identify six of the bodies.
Narino is a microcosm for a range of problems facing Colombia – there is a weak government presence here, and it is ravaged by drug production, poverty, and the presence of guerrillas and new criminal gangs that are sometimes allies and sometimes enemies.
Peace talks, which are taking place in Cuba, are trying to tackle some of the root causes of the conflict, such as agrarian development, drugs, political participation of opposition groups and victims’ reparations.
Mr Santos said at the weekend that the discussions should not drag on for too long and said they must be completed by November next year or earlier. The rebels have said they would remain in negotiations as long as was necessary.
After a short break from the first round of discussions in Havana about rural development, negotiating teams are expected to resume talks this week.