BOGOTA, Colombia – Colombia's main rebel group warned Saturday that U.S. military personnel aiding government troops will face attack.
Raul Reyes, a commander and spokesman of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (search), known as the FARC, issued the threat barely two weeks after a rebel grenade attack on two Bogota brewpubs killed one person and wounded 72, including four Americans.
The U.S. Embassy has banned its personnel and their families — and the hundreds of U.S. government contractors in Colombia — from two neighborhoods featuring bars and restaurants in the wake of the Nov. 16 attack.
Reyes criticized the Americans for "training and aiding government forces in counterinsurgency tactics and actions" in Colombia.
"The invasive foreign troops are a military target for the FARC," Reyes said in an interview posted on the Web site of the News Agency of New Colombia, which carries official rebel statements.
The man who allegedly threw the two grenades Nov. 16 into the Bogota Beer Company (search) and Palos de Moguer — which were popular among Americans — was arrested minutes after the attack and identified as a member of a FARC commando team.
But Reyes insisted that he did not know whether the FARC was responsible for the attack. The U.S. Embassy has said Colombian authorities have reported the rebel attack was intended to kill and maim Americans.
The United States has spent some $2.5 billion, most of it in military aid and training, since 2000 to help the Colombian government battle the FARC and a smaller leftist rebel group.
Some of the U.S. troops in Colombia are Special Forces who are training Colombian battalions in counterinsurgency tactics.
Separately, 69 Colombian highway patrol policemen were fired Saturday for "problems of discipline, immorality and dishonesty," said Gen. Jorge Castro (search), chief of the Colombian National Police. No details were given.
Castro was appointed earlier this month to his post after President Alvaro Uribe (search) ousted the former police chief amid a series of corruption scandals, involving misuse of funds and a million-dollar bribe police accepted upon returning three tons of confiscated cocaine to drug traffickers.
Colombia's rebel groups have been fighting for four decades against a succession of elected Colombian governments. More than 3,500 people, most of them civilians, die in the fighting each year.