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22 rebels killed in Colombia

At least 22 leftist rebels were killed in an operation by the police in southern Colombia, officials said.

world Updated: Sep 24, 2010 08:04 IST

At least 22 leftist rebels were killed in an operation by the police in southern Colombia, officials said.

The guerrillas of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were killed in a coordinated operation early Sunday by the National Police with the support of the army and air force, Defence Minister Rodrigo Rivera said.

The operation took place near San Miguel, a town close to the border with Ecuador, where eight police officers died in a rebel ambush earlier this month.

President Juan Manuel Santos thanked Ecuadorian officials for their assistance with the operation.

"Very valuable cooperation from the officials in Ecuador," the defence minister said.

The guerrillas have escalated their attacks this month, killing at least 50 people, the UN said.

The FARC, Colombia's oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, has expressed a willingness to start a dialogue with the government since President Juan Manuel Santos took office Aug 5.

Santos, however, said he would fight the FARC as long as the guerrilla group continued to engage in "terrorism", adding that the rebels would have to stop staging kidnappings and release all hostages.

The FARC, founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of Colombia.