“These 12 heroes of our country deserve all the recognition of the government and the country. But this war will go and we will be on the offensive. We will be on the offensive so we can achieve our goal of bringing peace to this country,” Santos said from a press conference.
The Colombian army’s 1st Brigade was attacked during their patrol outside the city of Maicao, the second largest urban center near the border of Venezuela. FARC rebels reportedly used machine guns, rifles and explosives killing 12 soldiers and wounding four others.
The head of state extended his condolences to the families of the deceased soldiers.
“These 12 heroes of the homeland, an officer, a sergeant and ten soldiers killed in combat, fought until the last minute in a battle that lasted over an hour. We have survivors who fought with everything they had, with courage, as they have been taught. Our condolences to the families of these heroes who gave their lives for peace in Colombia, for the security of Colombians,” he added.
President Santos stated his intentions to increase the offensive against the country’s largest guerrilla organization. Colombian security forces dealt two major blows to the rebel group in March in seperate offenses that killed 75 guerrillas.
“The FARC are now reacting to the effectiveness of our forces,” said Santos, adding that he asked top military and police commanders “to continue doing effective intelligence and combat(…) because we will not lower our guard.”
A Colombian Air Force report said the wounded were airlifted to a hospital in Maicao. It also underscored that the military has also increased their presence in the area, hoping to catch FARC’s 59th Front who they say were responsible for the “cruel attack.”
Yusti Lopez, Secretary of the Government of Maicao, pointed out that the area bordering Venezuela “where a soldier was killed earlier this year,” has been a hotspot for fighting recently.
“We are concerned because there are civilians in the area and they may end up being displaced due to the fighting,” he added.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez responded to to incident on the country’s national television station VTV. “Starting this morning we have strengthened aerial patrols […] because we want to reinforce our position: we will not permit incursions by armed forces of any nature into Venezuelan territory.”
Chavez was accused of sheltering and aiding the FARC by previous Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Relations between the two countries have improved under current President Juan Manuel Santos.