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Drugs terror chief dies in army attack

The leader of Colombia rebel group FARC has been killed in an army raid.

The killing is a major victory for President Juan Manuel Santos, coming just over a year after the army killed the rebels' military commander.

FARC chief Alfonso Cano, right, was killed in "a standard military operation" in Cauca state in a bombing raid followed by an attack by ground troops, said a security official.

Cano, the 63-year-old head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had been the top target of Colombian authorities since September 2010, when they killed the insurgency's military chief, Mono Jojoy, in a bombing raid.

Cano's death does not by any means signal the imminent demise of the country's last remaining leftist rebel army, analysts said.

The FARC, which is mostly financed by drug trafficking, is comprised largely of peasants from backwater areas who have few other opportunities in a country where land ownership is highly concentrated in the hands of a few.

The government's peace commissioner during failed 1998-2002 talks with the FARC, Victor Ricardo, said the group has a strength of around 9,000.

"It must, of course, be said with great clarity -- this is a blow to the FARC's morale," Mr Ricardo said. "But by no means can people imagine that this can bring an end to the FARC."

Mr Ricardo said the next leader could be the rebels known as Ivan Marquez or Timochenko. Both are members of the FARC secretariat.

A security official said Cano's body was being taken to Popayan, the Cauca state capital.

He said Cano was practically alone when he died in the attack in a rural area of the town of Suarez.

The group holds an unknown number of kidnap victims, apparently including four Chinese oil workers seized in June.

hnews@herald.ie


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