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Colombia's fight heats up as rebels kill 25 soldiers

Hard-liner President Alvaro Uribe moves to the jungle to discuss massive counterattacks with army commanders.

The 40-year Colombian internal conflict gathered steam last weekend, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its initials in Spanish, launched a notorious offensive killing 25 soldiers in Southwestern Putumayo state, while other 18 are reported missing. The conservative President Alvaro Uribe, whose security policy is the cornerstone of his re-election bid, has immediately flown to the area to discuss the details of a massive counterattack with army commanders.

Saturday's action was the worst death toll in a single day for the military since Uribe came to power in 2002. Fighting broke out when up to 300 rebels of the FARC, ambushed an army convoy during an attack targeting several nearby oil wells, said Gen. Carlos Lemus, Inspector General of the Army.
Uribe felt the blow to his re-election bid and moved rapidly, but ruled out any compromise with the left-wing rebels. "To make concessions to terrorism or to bow to terrorism undermines democracy," he said after meeting officers.
Mr Uribe spent the night at the military base of Tres Esquinas in Putumayo province. "The murder of our soldiers pains us greatly," he said after meeting the commanders in Puerto Asis, 530km (330 miles) south-west of the capital, Bogota.
According to press reports, as many as 1,000 troops, backed by helicopters, are pursuing the fighter column of the FARC, estimated at 300 strong, that attacked a military base and inflicted the heavy casualties. But despite the massive demonstration of force, the operation could be useless, as the rebels have already fled from the area and could have illegally crossed to neighbouring Ecuador.

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