14 Colombian police killed in ambush blamed on leftist rebels

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Suspected leftist rebels killed 14 police officers and wounded seven in an ambush of a five-truck convoy in southern Colombia, a police commander said Thursday.

Elsewhere in the country, two separate mine blasts on Wednesday and Thursday killed four soldiers and wounded six more, authorities reported.

The police casualties were among 45 caribiniers — all in their 20s — who were on patrol on Wednesday evening when attackers detonated roadside bombs then opened fire, police Gen. Santiago Parra told The Associated Press by telephone from the nearby provincial capital of Florencia.

Police had initially reported five dead but Parra said a rescue mission found nine more bodies later Thursday.

He blamed the attack in the municipality of Doncello on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the Western Hemisphere's last remaining rebel army.

It has been at war with the state since 1964 and, though weakened in recent years by Colombia's U.S.-backed military, has in recent months stepped up hit-and-run attacks.

The ambush happened not far from an area the size of Switzerland that the government ceded to the FARC from 1999 to 2002 for a peace dialogue that failed.

The carabiniers are a force of special police who operate in conflict zones and carry automatic weapons.

According to Colombia's defense ministry, the armed conflict claimed the lives of 121 police and 175 soldiers in the first eight months of the year.