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Colombia: FARC Rebels Killed In Bombardment

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COLOMBIA FARC REBELS KILLED
Colombian police officer Fabian Guerra, of the anti-bomb squad, carries special equipment for handling explosives to the scene where the controlled destruction of homemade missiles seized from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas will take place, on March 17, 2012, in Popayan, department of Cauca, Colombia. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty Images

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombian troops have killed 39 rebels, most of them in a bombardment of a guerrilla camp, the defense minister said Wednesday.

The military bombed a rebel camp in northeastern Arauca state early Wednesday, killing 33, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said at a news conference. Other rebels were killed in the past two days in operations in Arauca and other parts of the country, Pinzon said.

He described the bombing of the rebel camp as the biggest blow against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the past five years. The military has not yet publicly shown the bodies.

Twelve alleged rebels were also captured during the military operations on Tuesday and Wednesday, Pinzon said.

The bombardment in Arauca, near Colombia's border with Venezuela, came in the same region where 11 soldiers were killed Saturday in an attack blamed on the FARC.

"A great blow to the FARC in Arauca, where they killed our soldiers," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a message on his Twitter account, congratulating the military.

The military says an estimated 600 to 700 members of the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army, or ELN, operate in the area.

Five air force Super Tucano planes participated in the bombardment of the camp in a rural area near the town of Arauquita, said Gen. Ernesto Maldonado, commander of the Army's 8th Division. Troops stormed the camp after the bombing, Maldonado said.

Maldonado said the rebels attacked weren't those believed to have been involved in Saturday's attack by rebels, though they were also part of the FARC's 10th Front, which the military blamed for that attack.

The FARC had earlier announced it would release 10 soldiers and that process will begin on Monday, former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba said Wednesday.

"The FARC announced the it would free them on March 26," Cordoba told a news conference. The rebel group has held several of the soldiers for as long as 14 years.