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Colombian rebels kill eight town councilors in midday attack

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Rebels burst into a hotel in southern Colombia where local government officials were meeting Monday and killed eight town councilors, authorities said.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels arrived in a truck disguised as police, walked into the hotel and opened fire while the officials were having a working lunch, said Gilberto Toro, head of the Colombian Federation of Municipalities.

President Alvaro Uribe condemned the attack, which he said killed eight councilors. Early police reports said seven were killed.

"The murders of the councilors fills us with heartfelt sadness," Uribe said in a statement. "This fight against terrorism is hard."

The statement said government troops are combing the area around the town of Rivera, 150 miles southwest of Bogota, for the attackers.

Several more people were injured in the shooting, Toro said. A total of 11 councilors were there.

It was the second deadly attack by the FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, on unarmed civilians in the past three days as the rebels stepped up violence ahead of March 12 congressional elections.

The FARC on Saturday night attacked a minibus in the southern state of Caqueta that defied a rebel-imposed traffic ban, killing nine passengers and injuring 11, including a 9-year-old boy.

The FARC has been fighting the government for 41 years in a rebel conflict that claims thousands of lives each year.

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