Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) Leader Killed

Alfonso Cano

The leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was killed Friday in a military operation in the country's southwest in what Colombia's president called the biggest blow to FARC in all its history.

Guillermo Saenz Vargas, better known as Alfonso Cano, was the communist leader of Colombia's rebels. He died from gunshot wounds in a firefight with Colombia security forces in Suarez in the Cauca state, long a hotspot of FARC activity, according to the Washington Post.

The strike also killed Cano's communications chief, an unidentified female and members of Cano's security team. His chief of security was captured and other arrests were reported, according to a report from CNN.

Cano, who escaped a similar attack in July, had been involved with FARC for 33 years, finally taking over as leader in March 2008 after former head Manuel Marulanda died of an apparent heart attack. Cano was apparently a bookish intellectual who went from being a middle-class individual to a party ideologue respected greatly by his troops.

The FARC has been active for 47 years, carrying out guerilla attacks including kidnappings and raids with the ultimate intention of replacing the current Colombian government with a Communist ruling party. The rebels rely on the drug trade for funding. The group, which has an estimated 9,000 members, has been significantly stifled in recent years, thanks in part to millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. for intelligence training, helicopters and equipment.  FARC is viewed as a terrorist group by outside influences such as the U.S. and Europe.

Though it's the first time in its illustrious history that the leader of FARC has been killed by security forces, the strike is unlikely to numb FARC's influence on Colombia. The Colombian president urged current rebels to lay down their weapons and demobilize, according to BBC, part of a peaceful campaign against the group that's led to a significant number of guerillas disarming.

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