Panama's police kill FARC guerrilla, capture 7 on Colombia border

Reuters News

11/30/2012 9:27:38 PM - Reuters News

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama's national border police on Friday killed one FARC guerrilla and captured seven others while patrolling the remote jungle border province of Darien, a police spokeswoman said.

Authorities said they seized weapons and about 20 bags of cocaine along with the guerrillas, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Police encountered the guerrillas in the district of Chepigana, near the Central American country's border with Colombia, after receiving complaints over the past few days of armed men in the area, which prompted increased patrols.

The incident comes a day after the FARC wrapped up their first round of peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana. The talks aim to end a decades-long conflict and are set to reconvene Wednesday.

Previous attempts at brokering peace have failed, but this time Colombia's government believes the FARC is weaker.

The FARC, initially formed in the 1960s as an armed communist agrarian movement, later turned to the illegal drug trade, kidnappings and extortion to sustain itself.

Its members have long operated in the semi-no-man's-land of Darien, stocking up on supplies, escaping Colombian security forces and using the dense jungle to move north-bound drugs.

Over the past two years, however, Panama's police say the FARC's numbers in the area have dwindled as the police presence has increased.

(Reporting by Lomi Kriel; editing by David Alire Garcia and Todd Eastham)