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Colombian army: Rebels kill 24 soldiers

BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Leftist rebel forces ambushed a military patrol in southern Colombia at dawn Tuesday, killing two dozen members, said a Colombian military spokesman.

The 21 soldiers and three officers were fighting drug trafficking outside Vista Hermosa, 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of the capital, Bogota, said Gen. Hernando Ortiz, the army's second commander.

The province of Meta is largely controlled by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, Ortiz added.

FARC, established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, is the South American country's oldest, largest and best-equipped Marxist rebel group, according to the U.S. State Department. The agency has classified it as a terrorist group.

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