Colombia's FARC Rebels Execute Town Leaders

Leftist rebels dragged four community leaders from their homes and shot them in a park in rural Colombia, authorities said Tuesday.

In a separate incident, a police officer was killed in a gunbattle with rebels, police said.

Guerrillas belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, forced the community leaders from their homes at gunpoint Monday night in a remote hamlet near Yarumal, 200 miles northwest of the capital, acting Mayor Fernando Rodriguez said.

"The guerrillas entered the town with a list in their hand and went looking for the community leaders in their houses," Rodriguez said. "They were then vilely assassinated in a park with the entire town watching."

Rodriguez said the victims, including the president and vice president of a neighborhood community organization, had all previously received death threats.

Separately, national police reported that an officer was killed Sunday during a shootout with rebels trying to take control of the town of Solita, 310 miles southwest of Bogota.

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The FARC, Latin America's oldest and most potent insurgency, has been trying to overthrow the government for almost a half-century. Its numbers are believed to have dwindled to fewer than 12,000 as a result of an intense, U.S.-backed military campaign launched by President Alvaro Uribe.

The attacks marred what was otherwise a peaceful holiday weekend in Colombia, where according to police, a record 4.2 million tourists traveled along highways that a few years ago were prone to rebel blockades and kidnappings.

"The tranquility has allowed Colombians to return to the roads and the beaches," Uribe told RCN Radio on Tuesday morning.

Uribe said a reduction in violence was also the reason why a record 1.3 million foreign tourists visited Colombia last year — more than twice the amount five years ago.