Colombian rebels confirm leader’s death, name successor

May 26th, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by admin  

Bogota, May 26 (IANS) Colombia’s largest leftist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has confirmed the death of their top leader Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda due to a heart attack March 26, EFE news agency reported. FARC commander Timoleon Jimenez in a TV broadcast Sunday also confirmed that Alfonso Cano has taken over as the group’s top leader.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you that our commander-in-chief, Manuel Marulanda Velez, died due to a heart attack March 26,” Jimenez read out a prepared statement in TeleSur network.

“His companions and all the units that provided him (Marulanda) security were present at the time of his demise,” he said, adding their leader was given an “honourable funeral”.

Marulanda was reportedly suffering from prostate cancer and was considered the oldest active guerrilla in the world. He was born in Genova village in west-central province of Quindio May 12, 1930.

Jimenez said all the proposals made by the FARC regarding the release of the hostages remains in effect. The FARC is holding 40 high-profile hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, whom they want to exchange for as many as 500 jailed rebels.

Earlier on Saturday, in an interview with the weekly magazine Semana, Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos broke the news of the guerrilla leader’s death.

The new commander, Alfonso Cano, has been with the FARC for 31 years and is considered one of the rebel group’s top ideologues. He joined the group after serving as the Colombian Communist Party’s political commissar.

He currently commands the FARC’s Western Bloc and is a member of the group’s top body, the Secretariat.

Since 2000, he has been in charge of the New Colombia Bolivarian Movement, a political organisation created by the group. He is wanted by the Colombian authorities for rebellion, terrorism, murder and kidnapping.

The FARC was founded in 1964 and operates across a vast swath of this Andean nation. The guerrilla group has an estimated 17,000 fighters.

The US and the European Union have designated the group a foreign terrorist organisation.

President Alvaro Uribe’s administration has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions of dollars in aid from the US for counterinsurgency operations.

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