Bogota – Two police officers died in an attack staged by FARC rebels over the weekend in Cauca, a province in southwestern Colombia, where the insurgents launched an offensive that has resulted in the deaths of about half a dozen people and left more than 60 others wounded, officials said.
The officers died Sunday in Suarez, a city in Cauca, when Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas attacked them while they were on patrol downtown, a municipal official said.
The FARC launched coordinated attacks on several towns in Cauca on Sunday, killing at least six people.
President Juan Manuel Santos met with officials and security forces commanders in Popayan, the capital of Cauca, on Sunday to discuss the situation.
The FARC is implementing its "Pistol Plan," sending plainclothes guerrillas to attack police and army troops, officials said, adding that the rebels usually open fire and then flee.
At least four people, including a police officer, were killed when guerrillas attacked the town of Toribio on Saturday.
FARC rebels detonated a car bomb outside the town's police station, causing extensive to the building, at least 20 nearby houses and city hall, Toribio Mayor Carlos Alberto Banguero said.
A car bomb set off by the rebels in Corinto, another town in Cauca, wounded at least six people, police said.
FARC units also mounted attacks on the neighboring towns of Caldono and Jambalo, as well as the villages of Siberia and Mondomo, officials said.
The National Police and army regained control of the situation in the area with support from the air force, officials said.
Police, infantry units and helicopter gunships were sent from Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca province, and Popayan.
The FARC, Colombia's oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was founded in 1964, has an estimated 8,000 fighters and operates across a large swath of this Andean nation.
The Colombian government has made fighting the FARC a top priority and has obtained billions in U.S. aid for counterinsurgency operations.
A succession of governments have battled Colombia's leftist insurgent groups since the mid-1960s.
In 1999, then-President Andres Pastrana allowed the creation of a Switzerland-sized "neutral" zone in the jungles of southern Colombia for peace talks with the FARC.
After several years of fitful and ultimately fruitless negotiations, Pastrana ordered the armed forces to retake the region in early 2002. But while the arrangement lasted, the FARC enjoyed free rein within the zone.
The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC's main means of financing its operations.