Rebels kill nine Colombian security forces - army

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BOGOTA, Colombia, March 11 (Reuters) Colombian rebels today killed eight soldiers and a policeman in three separate attacks, part of a show of force before a legislative election that has left dozens dead, authorities said.

Colombia will elect a new Congress tomorrow, determining the amount of legislative support that President Alvaro Uribe would get if, as expected, he wins a second term in May.

The US ally is popular for cutting crime as part of his offensive against the guerrillas.

The rebels, fighting a four-decade-old insurgency funded by the cocaine trade, often step up attacks before elections to show their strength and scare people away from voting.

Five soldiers died when they stepped on land mines planted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, near Venezuela in the province of North Santander, an army spokesman told Reuters.

Mines killed three soldiers in Putumayo province near Ecuador, and a police officer was shot and killed by the FARC in Antioquia province near the Caribbean coast.

On Monday a FARC bomb killed an 8-year-old boy and two women in the southern jungle province of Caqueta.

Earlier this month the 17,000-strong peasant army attacked a village in the province of Caldas, killing a baby and a police officer. In February, the rebels killed 18 civilians in attacks on a town council and a rural bus.

Reuters OM VP0150

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