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22 rebels reported killed in Colombian airstrike

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The bombing happened in southern Colombia
  • At least 22 FARC guerrillas were killed, the defense minister says
  • It was one of the strongest blows against the rebels

(CNN) -- Twenty-two Colombian guerrillas were killed Sunday in an airstrike, the country's defense minister said.

The Colombian air force bombing was part of an operation against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in southern Colombia, Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said. The operation was ongoing and more bodies could be found, he said.

Rebels in the area had killed eight police officers in an attack earlier this month.

Sunday's bombing campaign was one of the strongest blows against the FARC in recent memory.

"This shows the country, but above all those bandits, that our people are not under their control, but to the contrary, responding with incisiveness," President Juan Manuel Santos said in a phone conversation with Rivera.

The airstrike was ordered in a jungle area near the city of San Miguel in the state of Putumayo, which borders Ecuador.

Disputes with Ecuador have arisen in that border area before because of a 2008 airstrike where Colombian planes followed the rebels in Ecuadorian territory. Sunday's mission entirely took place on the Colombian side of the border, said Rivera, who praised Ecuador's cooperation in the fight against the FARC.

Troops were sweeping the area of the bombing meter by meter, Rivera said.

"Any criminal act against any compatriot is an attack against all Colombians," he said.

Authorities also recovered from the area 17 rifles and other weapons, and various computers.