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FARC caches located in caves

March 01, 2009|Reuters

LA MACARENA, COLOMBIA — Colombian soldiers have unearthed guerrilla hide-outs in caves deep in the jungles where rebels evaded attacks, stashed land mines and stored medical supplies, authorities said Saturday.

Colombia's largest rebel group, the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has been battered by President Alvaro Uribe's U.S.-backed offensive, which has driven guerrillas deep into jungles and mountains.

The army said troops had been searching for the hide-outs for five years in their hunt for a top FARC commander, Jorge Briceno, known as Mono Jojoy, a member of the group's leadership secretariat.

"They used to feel safe. . . . Now, they are living in caves they use to hide away," said Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, showing a group of reporters the caves in La Macarena region in Meta province, southeast of Bogota.

Troops were led to the caves after a tip-off from a FARC deserter. Reporters at the site were shown weapons, land mines, surgical equipment and explosives discovered in camps surrounding the caves.

The FARC, labeled terrorists by the United States and Europe, once controlled swaths of Colombia. It has funded its activities with drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

But violence and kidnappings have declined since Uribe sent troops to retake parts of the country. Fighting goes on in remote areas, especially around cocaine trafficking routes. The FARC lost three top commanders last year and has suffered a string of military setbacks.

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