Colombia's FARC says one of its negotiators involved in peace talks with the government was among the 27 rebels killed in a strike last week. Tensions threaten to derail attempts to end the five-decade conflict.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said Wednesday that one of their peace envoys known by the alias Jairo Martinez was killed in a raid in the country's southwest last week.
"Jairo Martinez, a member of the FARC peace delegation in Havana, was among the guerrillas murdered," FARC leader Pastor Alape told reporters in the Cuban capital.
"Peace talks won't advance with blood baths, President Santos," Alape added, addressing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Martinez, whose real name is Pedro Nel Daza, was also involved in talks under former president Andres Pastrana, who held office from 1998 to 2002.
The FARC negotiator was reportedly visiting rebel troops in Cauca province last Thursday to report on progress at the current peace negotiations when their jungle camp was ambushed in an air and ground assault. At least 27 rebels were killed.
Around 40 fighters, including senior rebel commander Roman Ruiz, have been killed in government bombing raids over the past week, prompting FARC to abandon the unilateral ceasefire it had called in December.
The two sides have been taking part in peace talks in Cuba since 2012 in an attempt to end a conflict spanning five decades. Those negotiations resumed last Thursday, despite the recent increase in violence.
The Marxist guerillas have repeatedly called for a bilateral ceasefire, but President Santos has said he won't end military action until a final peace deal has been reached.
The Santos government suspended airstrikes against the rebels in March, in recognition of the ceasefire, but later reversed that decision following a FARC attack on its soldiers.
The war between the FARC and Colombia's government has left more than 220,000 people dead and displaced close to 5 million since 1964.
nm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)