The FARC rebel front accused of killing 12 Colombian soldiers Monday is stationed in Venezuela and moves easily between the two countries, Colombia’s minister of defense said Tuesday.
The guerrilla unit probably has been using Venezuela as “its home base for quite a while,” Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said in an interview with Caracol Radio.
The FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, allegedly ambushed the army’s First Brigade while it patrolled an area in the northern department of Guajira near the Venezuelan border. Twelve uniformed soldiers died in the attack and at least four more were wounded.
“We know that this arm of the FARC moved from Venezuela in order to attack our soldiers, and returned again to Venezuela,” Army General Sergio Mantilla said Tuesday in an interview with local media.
The army, he added, discovered the body of one fallen soldier less than 500 hundred feet from markers that separate Colombia from Venezuela.
According to news website Terra, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has contacted his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez twice since Monday to alert him to FARC’s presence in Venezuelan territory.
Chavez responded swiftly. “We maintain our position: we will not permit the incursions of any armed forces into Venezuelan territory, regardless of their origen,” he said, adding that he had sent brigades to the state of Zulia, where the 59th Front is supposedly positioned.
Pinzon stressed the importance of Chavez’ cooperation and his “decision to take concrete actions.”
“I hope they will be effective,” he said.
Colombian authorities claimed that 100 to 120 FARC fighters attacked a squad of 30 army soldiers with machine guns, rifles, and exploses. The soldiers had been supervising the reconstruction of energy towers once toppled by the FARC.
The bodies of the fallen soldiers — among them, an officer, a sargeant, and ten foot soldiers — will be returned to their home regions, General Mantilla told Caracol Radio.