The woman who was the companion of FARC guerrilla commander Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda at the time of his death in March 2008 said the Colombian army regularly rapes and tortures captured female insurgents.

"When the female comrades end up as prisoners, normally they are raped, they are tortured, and sometimes their breasts are cut off," Sandra Ramirez said in an interview published Tuesday by leftist Germany daily Junge Welt.

"We are war booty for them," she said.

Colombian soldiers are afraid of facing female guerrillas in battle, according to Ramirez, one of the negotiators who is to represent the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in impending talks with the government.

"They are afraid because we confront them face to face and we show them we can be very tough in combat. That's why they vent all their fear, all their anger and all their impotence when they capture a female comrade," she told the newspaper.

Ramirez also dismissed claims in the Colombian media that the men of the FARC sexually exploit the women in the ranks.

"That's a lie," she said. "We freely decide when we want to get together with a comrade if we like him. Here, people fall in love and separate and have disappointments just as everywhere else in the world."

Marulanda, who founded the FARC in 1964, was about two months shy of 78 when died of a heart attack at a rebel stronghold in the jungle. EFE