Nine presumed FARC rebels died in a clash with the Colombian army in the southern province of Caqueta on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry announced.

"Six men and three women belonging to the Teofilo Forero (column) of the FARC lost their lives in the operation," said the ministry on its Twitter account.

According to the army, the clashes, which have not yet come to an end, are occurring in the zone known as Brisas del Lozada, near the town of San Vicente del Caguan, which more than a decade ago was the site of a failed peace dialogue between the government of President Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the country's largest guerrilla group.

The Teofilo Forero mobile column is labeled an "elite unit" by the armed forces and has been responsible for some of the guerrillas' heaviest blows against the army in the past.

Participating in the clashes are soldiers of the Omega Task Force, a special military unit made up of troops from the army, navy and air force and operating in southern Colombia.

The army also said that during the operation its forces also seized from the dead rebels an M-60 machinegun, eight rifles and a large quantity of war materiel and supplies. EFE