Fighting continues near Colombian rebel stronghold

US President Barack Obama praises "outstanding work" of Colombia`s military.

Bogota: Clashes between Colombian soldiers and leftist guerrillas continued on Friday in a jungle zone where the insurgency`s top military leader was killed in airstrikes.

The body of Jorge Briceno Suarez, the feared commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) known as "Mono Jojoy," was found on Thursday in a jungle camp that Defence Minister Rodrigo Rivera described as "the mother of all bases of the FARC”.
Forensic experts positively identified his remains on Friday by matching his fingerprints with information on file.

But fighting continued around the camp, located in a rugged part of the Macarena region in central Colombia, with some 20 other rebels killed and 13 soldiers wounded so far.

"That shows the intensity of the fighting," Rivera said.

Military operation leader General Miguel Perez said Colombian troops were facing resistance as they advanced.

"I cannot give details, but we are continuing the operations and looking for guerrillas to surrender. We are expecting demobilizations in the next days," he said, noting that the fighting is taking place in "a rugged area of very difficult access."

Rebels killed in the attack included three senior rebel leaders -- a member of the FARC directorate, a regional military commander and the head of the group`s urban militias -- according to the military.

The Defence Ministry has released pictures of Briceno that appeared to show him wrapped in bloody camouflaged material. The man`s bruised and swollen face lacked his famous moustache.

Forensic experts were struggling to identify at least seven other bodies because they were rapidly decomposing, a senior medical official said.

Fearing that Briceno`s death could unleash a new wave of violence, more than 2,000 police officers have been deployed to protect key areas of Bogota, officials said.

Speaking in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama praised the "outstanding work" of Colombia`s military, which receives strong US support.

Bureau Report