At least 10 guerrillas, including the second-in-command of FARC Front 53, Pedro Lain Parra Suns, alias "Jhon 26," died in the bombardment of a rebel camp in central Meta province, the Colombian Defense Ministry announced Thursday.
The operation was staged early last Sunday morning in a hard-to-access mountainous area more than 3,000 meters (some 9,750 feet) above sea level, when Colombian air force aircraft bombarded the area and then army troops moved in to clean up.
"Initially, the air force aircraft located a (rebel) camp and neutralized it. Then, army units (moved in) and are still in the zone," said the Defense Ministry.
The military said that the troops found the bodies of six presumed rebels, but "intelligence information confirmed that 10 guerrillas were killed."
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon told reporters that it had been "verified" that 10 rebels died in the strike, "including this 'Jhon 26' individual."
Trustworthy reports indicate that the death toll could be higher, the government said.
Parra had been a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, since age 15 and became one of the trusted lieutenants of "Mono Jojoy," the FARC military chief who died in a similar operation in 2010, Pinzon said.
In the operation, the army seized rifles, machineguns and communications equipment.
Early this week, U.S. daily The Washington Post revealed that the CIA had been providing secret aid to Colombia to mount military operations to eliminate dozens of FARC leaders.
Pinzon admitted that Colombia is engaged in "strong, very strong, cooperation with the United States," adding that military operations against the FARC had been stepped up despite the peace negotiations currently under way between the government and the rebels in Cuba. EFE