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Rebel missile attack kills 13 police in Colombia

SHARE Rebel missile attack kills 13 police in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia — A rebel missile attack on a small Andean mountain town in southwest Colombia killed 13 police officers, officials said Saturday.

At least five guerrillas also died in the fighting in Roncesvalles, a farming and ranching town 105 miles from Bogota in Tolima State, national police chief Gen. Alfredo Salgado reported.

Army rapid-reaction troops were sent to the area, where fighting continued Saturday afternoon. But they were unable to enter Roncesvalles due to rebel mines.

Roncesvalles is the fifth area town attacked since Tuesday by the country's largest leftist insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The group is stepping up violence despite the exchange of cease-fire proposals with the government earlier this month.

Peace talks between the FARC and the government of President Andres Pastrana are proceeding slowly without a truce.

Many people see periodic FARC offensives as attempts to strengthen the rebels' negotiating position.

FARC attacks earlier in the week on the Tolima and Huila State towns of Santa Marta, Colombia, Vegalarga and Alpujarra killed five civilians and left police posts, banks and dozens of homes in ruins.

As they did again Saturday in Roncesvalles — and have made their trademark in recent years — the rebels barraged the towns with homemade missiles fashioned from gas canisters packed with explosives.

Police stations are typically the target, but they are usually located in the center of the town. Nearby homes and businesses are often flattened as well by the wildly firing missiles.

There were no immediate reports, however, of civilian casualties in Saturday's fighting.