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Colombian fighting kills at least 60


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CERRO AZUL, Colombia (CNN) -- Fighting between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries killed at least 60 people in rural, northwest Colombia, most of them rightist militiamen, witnesses told CNN.

Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) joined forces to battle the paramilitaries Wednesday and Thursday in San Pablo, about 200 miles north of Bogota.

Bodies of at least 18 paramilitary members lay in trenches Saturday.

Peasants in the area said dozens more people were killed in the fighting, most of them members of a group called United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which had declared a unilateral, indefinite cease-fire December 1.

Authorities said they were surprised that FARC and ELN members launched the attack in the area, a principal center for the training and operations of government forces.

Hundreds of terrified peasants have abandoned their homes.

The guerrilla groups said there was no possibility of holding peace talks with the government of President Álvaro Uribe, and they vowed to fight the paramilitary groups that had initiated exploratory talks aimed at the demobilization of the rebel forces.

Meanwhile, FARC guerrillas released proof that 12 congressmen kidnapped on April 11 from Valle del Cauca remain alive.

In videotape recorded by FARC guerrillas and sent to Reuters, the politicians asked the government to release imprisoned rebel members in exchange for their freedom.

"Don't wait an instant more," said Juan Carlos Narváez, one of the kidnapped men. "There are no moral, legal, political or procedural arguments that should get in the way. It is more immoral to hold compatriots who represent the institution of government -- rotting from years spent in the forest."

The kidnapped legislators pleaded for authorities not to mount a military operation to rescue them.

"We are opposed to a military solution to our kidnapping," said Nacianceno Orozco, another of the kidnapped men, in the tape. "The place we are being held does not offer a great chance that such a mission would be a success."

Uribe's government has not opposed a humanitarian exchange, but has pointed out that doing so would liberate FARC guerrillas, many of whom have been convicted of terrorist acts.



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