Colombian security forces capture top rebel leader

February 27th, 2008 - 9:55 pm ICT by admin  

Bogota, Feb 27 (IANS) Colombian security forces have arrested a senior member of the country’s largest insurgency group and one of the most wanted rebels, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Wednesday. Heli Mejia Mendoza, alias “Martin Sombra” , who had spent 40 years as a guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), had been in charge of the unit guarding the three American military contractors captured five years ago, Gen Oscar Naranjo, director of the police, said.

He was arrested Tuesday in a rural area, some 180 km north of Bogota, Naranjo said, adding, the rebel offered the officers 100 million pesos ($52,000) to let him go.

Colombian authorities said Mendoza was one of the 31 most important men in the FARC and a veteran commander who enjoyed the trust of the group’s high command.

Naranjo said the rebel leader had taught Spanish language to the three US military contractors - Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell.

The three Amercans are among the 40 high-profile captives the FARC has been trying to exchange for hundreds of guerrillas lodged in various government prisons.

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