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Colombian military kills 15 rebels, president says

By The CNN Wire Staff
  • Colombian armed forces have killed 15 FARC guerrillas
  • The president calls the operation a "decisive blow"

Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombian armed forces have killed 15 guerrillas in the western province of Cauca, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday.

Santos described the military operation against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as FARC, as a "decisive blow," after recent police assassinations in the western town of Calota.

The raid spanned Friday night into Saturday morning. It took place less than two weeks after the military led an assault that killed a rebel leader near Colombia's border with Ecuador in Putumayo province.

Known as Oliver Solarte, the rebel leader had been linked to Mexican drug cartels, Santos said.

Solarte was sought for extradition to the United States for drug trafficking and was wanted in Colombia for terrorism, kidnapping, rebellion and murder.

By contrast, Colombian military officials says only lower-ranking FARC combatants were killed in Friday's assault.

The FARC is a leftist rebel army that claims to work as a bulwark against Colombia's elite ruling class, and has traditionally funded operations by way of narcotics sales and kidnappings.

CNN's Fernando Ramos in Bogota and Nick Valencia in Atlanta contributed to this report