BOGOTA: Colombia’s president praised the army on Saturday for killing a regional commander of the leftist rebel group FARC, even as both sides are holding peace talks in Havana.
Jesus Antonio Plata Rios, whose nickname was Zeplin, died on Friday in an army attack in southwest Colombia, the defense ministry said.
Negotiations for peace have been under way since November.
The government has refused to call a ceasefire, saying the guerrillas would just use it to regroup and rearm, as it says they did a decade ago during the last attempt at ending Latin America’s oldest insurgency, which began nearly 50 years ago.
“Thanks to the joint work of the air force and the army, Zeplin was neutralized,” President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on his Twitter account.
Plata Rios led FARC troops in western Colombia and was also in charge of stirring up grassroots support for the rebels, said Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.
“This is yet another blow that shows the capability of our national army in the fight against the FARC,” the minister said.
The FARC are believed to have about 8,000 fighters.
Santos has said he hopes a peace agreement can be reached early next year.
The two delegations are still only discussing the second item on five point agenda at the peace talks.