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Colombian army kills 36 rebels in new offensive
 
VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia, March 27 (BSS/AFP) - Colombian troops killed at least 36 suspected FARC rebels and captured four in an army offensive in the east-central department of Meta, according to officials.

President Juan Manuel Santos announced the raid in a meeting of his security council in Villavicencio, 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Bogota, less than a week after troops killed more than 30 rebels in a similar operation.

The Colombian president on Monday praised the "very good results" of the army, and said two of those arrested in the operation were women.

One of those killed was a guerrilla, code-named Arcesio, who was a regional commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, Santos said.

"The offensive is continuing and I would like to congratulate
the armed forces," Santos said. "The armed forces will continue
and persevere, faithful to their instructions."

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said 36 rebels had been
killed in the offensive, which struck a "major blow" against the
rebel group and resulted in the seizure of a large arsenal of
firearms and grenades.

The renewed violence follows FARC overtures -- thus far
deemed insufficient by the government -- to make peace with
Bogota.

Air Force, army, police and navy personnel participated in
the operation, Santos said.

The FARC, Latin America's last major insurgency, said through
a mediator that it plans to start releasing 10 military hostages
under a pledge announced last month.

The rebel group announced in February that it would release
the six police officers and four soldiers it still holds and
would end the practice of kidnapping for ransom. But the plan
later stalled and has been pushed to April.

The FARC reaffirmed its commitment in early March to
releasing the prisoners, who have been held in captivity for more
than 12 years.

The FARC has continued, however, to clash with army forces.

The offensive comes less than a week after 36 guerrillas were
killed in an offensive in Arauca, on the border with Venezuela.
That offensive came after 11 soldiers were killed in a March 17
FARC ambush in Arauca.

The FARC, founded in 1964, is Latin America's oldest
guerrilla movement, and is believed to have about 9,000 fighters
in mountainous and jungle areas of Colombia, according to
government estimates.
 
 
 
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