Colombian troops killed at least 35 suspected Marxist rebels and captured four in an army offensive in the east-central department of Meta, President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday.
Santos made the announcement in a meeting of his security council in Villavicencio, 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Bogota, less than a week after troops killed 33 rebels in a gun battle with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The Colombian president praised the “very good results” of the army, and said two of those arrested in the operation were women.
One of those killed was a guerrilla code-named Arcesio, who was a regional commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas, Santos said.
“The offensive is continuing and I would like to congratulate the armed forces,” Santos said. “The armed forces will continue and persevere, faithful to their instructions.”
The renewed violence follows FARC overtures — thus far deemed insufficient by the government — to make peace with Bogota.
Air Force, army, police and navy personnel participated in the operation, Santos said.
The FARC, Latin America’s last major insurgency, said through a mediator that it plans to start releasing 10 military hostages, under a pledge announced last month.
The rebel group announced in February that it would release the six police officers and four soldiers it still holds and would end the practice of kidnapping for ransom. But the plan later stalled and has been pushed to April.
The Marxist FARC reaffirmed its commitment in early March to releasing the prisoners, who have been held in captivity for more than 12 years.
The FARC has continued, however, to be active in clashes with army forces.
The offensive comes less than a week after 36 guerrillas were killed in an offensive in Arauca, on the border with Venezuela. That offensive came after 11 soldiers were killed in a March 17 FARC ambush in Arauca.
The FARC, founded in 1964, is Latin America’s oldest guerrilla movement, and is believed to have about 9,000 fighters in mountainous and jungle areas of Colombia, according to government estimates.