The Colombian military has killed a key rebel leader from the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's second-largest guerrilla group. The assassination may influence peace talks between government and the ELN.
Jose Amin Hernandez, known by his nom de guerre Marquitos, was confirmed as killed during combat in rural Segovia municipality in the country's northwestern province of Antioquia. One of his associates was wounded, according to local media reports.
"The combatant with the alias Marquitos, commander of the Dario Martinez front and member of the national leadership of the ELN, has been killed. Congratulations to the armed forces," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter while on a tour in Europe. Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon also congratulated the Armed Forces for the fall of the rebel leader.
The operation was the result of several months of military intelligence gathering, and was executed by a special forces unit. Marquitos commanded 13 ELN units in the Antioquia and Bolivar provinces - key regions for drug and arms trafficking and illegal mining.
The ELN has been battling the government for 51 years. The movement was originally founded by radical priests who had been inspired by the Cuban revolution and its Marxist ideas.
Though ELN have started to hold exploratory peace talks with government authorities last January, it has yet to enter a formal truce, unlike fellow rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who have been working on hammering out an accord with the government for the past 30 months with moderate success.
Nonetheless, this week saw a spike in FARC rebel insurgency, with the group killing two policemen and a civilian.
ss/bw (Reuters, EFE)