Nine soldiers were killed in clashes with leftist guerrillas in southwest Colombia, sparking fears of an upsurge in rebel violence and prompting President Alvaro Uribe to order a review of security measures.
"It's a great tragedy," Uribe said of the firefight that broke out on Tuesday in Cauca, hours after he headed a meeting
of security officials in that same department.
"Let's see what new security measures we can implement" to stem violence around the country, he added. Uribe was
elected in 2002 on a "safe democracy" ticket promising a military crackdown on the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC).
In yesterday's predawn clashes in and around the town of Corinto, nine soldiers were killed, four were wounded, and an
unknown number of FARC rebels were also killed, a military spokesman told AFP.
The soldiers prevented the guerrillas from capturing Corinto, the spokesman said.
Colombia news media said that some 30 guerrillas were killed when a force of 200 rebels tried to take over the town.
Corinto Mayor Gilberto Munoz said in a radio interview that no town residents had been killed.
The shootouts in Cauca sparked concerns FARC was regrouping and strengthening after three of its top leaders were killed last year and several prominent hostages were freed in a ruse by the military.