Colombian rebels injure eight in police station attack

BBC News, September 18, 2011

Left-wing Farc rebels in Colombia have attacked a police station in Las Mercedes, in the north of the country.

Six police officers and two soldiers were injured in the dawn shoot-out.

The attack comes a day after a girl was killed and eight other children injured when a rebel grenade hit their school in the south-western town of Caloto.

Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said a commission of experts would meet on Monday to devise a new military strategy against the guerrilla group.

Around 30 members of the security forces repelled the Farc offensive against Las Mercedes police station, which came under mortar attack and rifle fire.

Among those injured are both the commander and the deputy commander of the station.

School attack

Meanwhile, in Caloto, in south-western Cauca province, 500 locals have been displaced by fighting between the rebels and the security forces.

The fighting follows a rebel attack there on Saturday, when Farc guerrillas launched a home-made explosive device at a passing military patrol.

The device missed the patrol and hit a school, killing a young girl and injuring eight children.

One of the injured girls is in a serious condition.

Cauca has seen an increase in rebel attacks since the beginning of the year, as the Farc have increasingly resorted to hit-and-run raids.

New strategy

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday called on the Farc to down arms.

Speaking in Marquetalia, where the Farc was founded 47 years ago, President Santos said those willing to give up the armed struggle would be helped to re-integrate into society.

“Demobilise, give up arms, renounce violence, renounce terrorism, and we’ll be there to give you an opportunity to re-integrate into civilian life,” he said.

President Santos earlier this month appointed new military commanders and a new defence minister in an attempt to devise new strategies to combat the rebels and other armed groups.

New Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon has orders to give the Farc the “final blow”.

He has asked a commission of international experts and members of the police and military to draw up a new strategy to combat the Farc.

It will meet for the first time on Monday.