Mortar-firing Colombian rebels kill 8 police in border town attack

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Leftist rebels firing homemade mortars killed at least eight police officers and wounded four in a pre-dawn attack Friday on a police barracks near the country's border with Ecuador, the defense minister said.

Two police officers were missing after the attack by guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, on a barracks housing 80 police in the town of San Miguel, said the minister, Rodrigo Rivera.

FARC rebels have for years used Ecuador as a refuge, crossing the San Miguel river to attack Colombian forces. It was not known whether that was the case Friday, but Rivera immediately made contact with Ecuadorean officials to discuss the possibility. A bridge spanning the river is about a mile from the attacked barracks.

The FARC and Colombia's No. 2 rebel group, the ELN, have stepped up attacks on security forces since President Juan Manuel Santos took office Aug. 7. At least 28 police officers and soldiers have been killed, 17 in the past week.

Santos was defense minister under his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, who weakened the rebels with billions in U.S. military aid. But many analysts believe the rebels cannot be defeated by arms alone.

A cross-border raid into Ecuador by Colombia's military in March 2008 killed a top FARC commander and 25 others, prompting Ecuador to break off diplomatic relations. Ties are only now being fully restored.

(This version CORRECTS that 80 police officers were at barracks rather than 80 rebels attacked post; number of attackers unknown.)