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Three killed in Colombian rebel attack on town

Written by: Staff

BOGOTA, Colombia, Mar 4 (Reuters) Colombian Marxist rebels blasted a remote village with mortar shells and assault rifles today, killing a baby and a police officer in the latest violence before legislative elections, police said.

A rebel also was killed in the nighttime raid on Monte Bonito in the coffee-growing province of Caldas in the mountains of central Colombia, a police spokesman said.

Fifteen civilians and police were wounded in the attack, in which the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials FARC, apparently aimed homemade mortar bombs at the police station and destroyed 15 houses.

Guerrillas set fire to a bus and a truck and destroyed a bridge before retreating under pressure from army troops sent to reinforce police.

The attack, which began at about 1 am and lasted until dawn, was one of several launched by the FARC in the run-up to congressional elections on March 12.

Rebels killed 18 civilians in attacks on a town council and a rural bus late in February.

The elections will be a test of the popularity of President Alvaro Uribe, who, polls say, is himself headed for re-election in May thanks largely to his tough military policies against the FARC.

FARC attacks aim to show that Uribe, a close US ally, has failed to diminish the strength of rebels who have been fighting for socialist revolution since 1964, analysts say.

The FARC has 17,000 members, military intelligence estimates, and funds itself by kidnapping and trafficking cocaine. It has support in some rural areas but little in the cities where most Colombians live.

A smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army, which has begun preliminary peace talks with the government, on Thursday declared a truce for the congressional elections.


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