[IWAR] COLOMBIA Rebel assault

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Mon Dec 22 1997 - 16:08:45 PST

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                      Heavy casualties feared in Colombian assault
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 The Associated Press
       BOGOTA, Colombia (December 22, 1997 5:48 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net)
       -- In a pre-Christmas offensive, hundreds of leftist guerrillas stormed
       a remote mountain military outpost, apparently overwhelming its 32
       defenders. Rebels also killed at least eight people in other attacks
       throughout Colombia.
       Thick clouds hindered efforts Monday to reach the military
       communications base -- at 12,500 feet on the Cerro de Patascoy -- as did
       the possibility that rebels mined the single path up the mountain,
       normally an eight-hour climb.
       The number of soldiers killed and wounded in Sunday's assault on the
       post, a concrete building with minimal defenses, was unclear.
       "The situation is serious, very critical, it's likely we've got dead,
       it's likely there are wounded," Gen. Mario Hugo Galan, the army's
       commander, told reporters.
       Contact with the alpine post was lost shortly after the attack and a
       helicopter that tried to reach it Sunday was hit by rebel gunfire,
       military officials said.
       Gen. Julio Charry, the regional army commander, told The Associated
       Press that reinforcements were expected to reach the site by foot late
       He said the base, near the border with Ecuador 320 miles southwest of
       Bogota, was normally guarded at night by six soldiers, but acknowledged
       that security may not have been adequate.
       About 400 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the
       largest and oldest of several rebel groups fighting the state since the
       1960s, appeared to be involved in the assault, said Col. Victor Burgos,
       the battalion commander. The rebel group, known as FARC, has an
       estimated 12,000 fighters.
       Those based at the post were an officer, four noncommissioned officers
       and 27 enlisted men, Charry said.
       Also Monday, FARC rebels killed four soldiers and wounded four others in
       combat that began Sunday in the northern banana-growing region of Uraba.
       The soldiers were checking a report that a farmhouse was on fire when
       they were ambushed, the army said.
       Police said rebels also ambushed three patrols in northern Colombia on
       Sunday, killing at least three officers and a 6-year-old girl and
       wounding eight officers and three civilians.
       By PAUL HAVEN, The Associated Press

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