Colombian leftist guerrilla leader Alfonso Cano killed

"The military has thus achieved one of its most important goals," Alberto Gonzalez Mosquera, governor of Cauca department, told local radio.

He added that Cano had died in the western part of his department located in the southwest of the country.

A military intelligence source also confirmed the death of the FARC leader to AFP.
"We have been able to confirm that Cano has been killed," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We don't know yet all the details, but his death is a fact."

Cano assumed the direction of the FARC in March 2008, after the death of Manuel Marulanda Velez. His real name was Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas.

The FARC is Colombia's oldest and largest guerrilla force, believed to have some 8,000 members. The leftist group has been at war with the government since its founding in 1964.

It began its campaign of kidnappings in the mid-1980s and army hostages were to serve as bargaining chips for FARC prisoners. By the late 1990s more civilians and political leaders were being snatched as well, winning the group greater notoriety but also increased influence with its government interlocutors.

The FARC suffered a serious loss in 2008, when its number two man, Raul Reyes, died during a Colombian raid in Ecuadoran territory.

Reyes was killed in an air raid that was followed by a Colombia army ground operation that left numerous guerrillas dead.

That raid led to a major diplomatic rift between Colombia and Ecuador, and for a while appeared to bring Latin America to the brink of regional war, after troops were mobilized by Venezuela and Ecuador.

That same year, the FARC also lost its founder and revered leader, Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda Velez. The reclusive 80-year old rebel chief, who was last seen in 1982, died in March 2008 after a brief illness.

In recent years, the Colombian government has taken a hard line against the FARC, which has answered in kind. It flexed its muscle during former president Alvaro Uribe's August 2002 inauguration, when the group bombed the presidential palace, killing some two dozen people.

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