FARC commander killed in raid on Ecuador; Chávez warns of "war"
Raul Reyes (AKA Luis Edgar Devia), second-in-command of Colombia's FARC guerillas, was killed March 1 in a raid across the border in the Ecuadoran lowland rainforest department of Sucumbios. President Alvaro Uribe called it "the biggest blow so far" against the rebel organization, and said he informed Ecuador's President Rafael Correa by telephone after the pre-dawn raid. Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Reyes was killed in an air-strike on a FARC camp 1.8 kilometers in Ecuadoran territory, followed by a ground incursion. Announced Uribe: "The Colombian Air Force proceeded to attack the camp from the Colombian side... Once the camp was bombarded, Colombian forces were ordered in to secure the area and neutralize the enemy." Sixteen other guerillas were killed in the attack near the settlement of Santa Rosa. Colombian intelligence apparently determined the location of the camp by tracking the guerillas' satellite phone signals. (Mercopress, Montevideo, El Comercio, Quito, March 2)
President Correa announced that Ecuador will send a diplomatic note to protest the incursion—and questioned whether Uribe had been honest with him when he first informed him of the raid. "The [Colombian] president either was poorly informed or brazenly lied to the president of Ecuador," Correa said. "We are going until the ultimate consequences for a clarification of these scandalous actions that are an aggression on our territory." (AP, March 2)
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos' statement said a Colombian border patrol was attacked from Ecuadoran territory, and retaliated with an air-strike launched from the Colombian side, without violating Ecuador's air space. He said the ground incursion came while Uribe was making his phone call to Correa. Reyes' body was recovered, brought back across the border to Puerto Asis and flown to Bogotá, he said. (Reuters, AFP via Univisión, March 2)
Speaking at a televised meeting of his cabinet in Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez warned Colombia against attempting cross-border operations. "Don't think about doing that over here because it would be very serious, it would be cause for war," he said. (BBC, March 2) "The situation is extremely grave," he said. One Colombian soldier was also killed in the fighting. (Reuters Latin America, March 2)
Colombia's armed forces also announced the capture of Lucio Gómez Bríñez (AKA Mañe) in Córdoba Tetón, Bolívar department, in north-central Colombia. (Armada Nacional de Colombia, press release, March 2)