FARC supreme leader “Alfonso Cano” has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in a 1998 guerrilla onslaught on a southwest-Colombian town that left scores dead and reduced the town center to rubble.
On November 1, 1998, over a thousand heavily armed guerrillas launched an assault on Mitu, capital of the department of Vaupes. The rebels levelled the police station with gas cylinder bombs, overrunning the 125-man local police force. They then seized control of public buildings and the town’s airstrip.
The FARC occupied the town, with its population of 15,000, for three days before government forces fought back, inflicting heavy casualties on the guerrillas. The fleeing rebels took 61 police hostage. Reports on the total number killed vary wildly, from the official count of 43 into the hundreds.
The court tried Cano, whose real name is Guillermo Leon Saenz, in his absence on charges of aggravated homicide, kidnapping and terrorism. Three other members of the FARC secretariat, Luciano Marin Arango, alias Ivan Marquez, Noel Mata Mata, alias El Cucho, y Rodrigo Leon Echeverry, alias Timochenko were also tried and sentenced on the same charges.
Demobilized guerrillas who took part in the assault have claimed late FARC commander “Mono Jojoy” directed the attack on the orders of the secretariat.