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Top Colombian rebel leader killed

world Updated: Mar 08, 2008 03:33 IST
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Ivan Rios, a top leader of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has been killed in fighting with government forces in central Colombia, media reports said.

Rios' killing comes six days after the FARC's second-ranking leader, Raul Reyes, and 23 other rebels were killed in a cross-border airstrike into Ecuador by the Colombian military.

Rios, whose real name was Jose Juvenal Velandia and who was considered close to Reyes, died on the battlefield on Friday along with several other rebels in a rural area of Samana municipality in the central Colombian province of Caldas.

Two demobilized rebels allegedly took the military to Rios' body.

He had been designated a member of the FARC leadership in 2005 and was wanted for rebellion, terrorism, homicide with terrorist motives, attempted homicide with terrorist motives and extortion.

An economist by training, Rios took part in the failed peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government under former Colombian president Andres Pastrana. In July, he apparently tried - unsuccessfully - to launch a process to choose a successor to ailing FARC founder and leader Manuel Marulanda Velez.

Founded in 1964, FARC is the largest rebel group in Colombia with some 10,000 fighters. It has been waging a guerrilla war for more than 40 years and is currently believed to be holding more than 700 hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.