Saturday, May 24, 2008

Farc leader 'dead' says military

Marulanda has led the Farc since it was formed 44 years ago The leader of Colombia's largest rebel group, the Farc, has died, the military has claimed in a statement. A national news magazine had earlier reported the death of Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda on 26 March, citing the defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos. There has been no confirmation from guerrilla sources. The top rebel commander's death has been rumoured and disproved several times in the past. But correspondents say the death could mean the end of the Farc if confirmed. Mr Marulanda, whose real name is Pedro Antonio Marin, has led the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, since its foundation in 1964. If they are going to say that the information we have is not correct, then let them prove it Ministry of Defence statement He is thought to be 78 years old and there have been persistent rumours of ill health, including evidence that suggested he had prostate cancer. A statement from the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral David Rene Moreno, said it was not yet confirmed how Mr Marulanda died. Heart attack He said three bombing raids by government forces had targeted the area where Mr Marulanda was believed to have been staying, but not on the date he is reported to have died. He added that the version among the Farc rebels themselves was that their leader died from a heart attack and they have designated a political leader known as Alfonso Cano as his successor. "If they are going to say that the information we have is not correct, then let them prove it," Admiral Moreno said. "Whether Marulanda died in an air raid or of natural causes, this would be the hardest blow that this terrorist group has taken, since 'Sureshot' was the one who kept the criminal organisation united." The BBC's Jeremy McDermott, in Bogota, says the 44-year-old rebel movement is currently suffering its worst period yet, with two top commanders dead and others surrendered.

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