Reuters (with additional material by AP). 29 January 2002. Twelve
Colombians Killed, 22 Missing in Blasts.

BOGOTA -- An explosion in a Marxist guerrilla weapons dump killed seven
raiding Colombian soldiers and left 22 missing on Tuesday, and a car
bomb killed five civilians in a southern city, the army said.

An army spokesman blamed the latest car bombing, in a restaurant
district of the city of Florencia, on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia -- known by the Spanish initials FARC.

It came during an apparent offensive by the 17,000-member Marxist force,
launched since they signed a landmark agreement with the government to
reach a cease-fire deal by April 7.

The soldiers were killed storming a house where the FARC had stored an
estimated two tons of dynamite in the El Dorado district of the central
Colombian province of Meta.

The dump exploded. But it was not clear whether guerrillas set off the
dynamite or whether it had gone of by accident.

Troops were still trying to account for their missing comrades around
the ruins of the house.

Another six wounded were taken to a hospital in the nearby city of

The army's Fourth Division said in a written statement that troops had
seized the cache after fighting in which four FARC guerrillas were
killed. At least six soldiers were wounded in the explosion.

"At this moment the troops are (trying)... to locate 22 army members who
are missing as a result of the explosion," said the statement signed by
division commander Gen. Arcesio Barrero.

Later on Tuesday evening, a car bomb activated by remote control
exploded as a military convoy passed through Florencia's restaurant
district, killing five civilians including two children, an army
spokesman said.

He pointed the finger at the FARC, which is known to have a presence in
Florencia. The city lies two hours' drive from a Switzerland-sized chunk
of land granted the rebels by President Andres Pastrana to start peace
talks three years ago.

The Florencia car bomb, which also injured 10 soldiers and policemen as
well as one civilian, exploded just before peak dining time on Tuesday
evening. The city has long been a battleground not only for the FARC and
the army, but also for far-right paramilitaries -- who target the

Rather than the cease-fire deal's heralding an easing in fighting, the
rebels have stepped up attacks against military units, and bombings of
energy and water infrastructure.

Many analysts say the guerrillas could be making a show of military
might to prove that it they have not turned soft after agreeing to
negotiate a cease-fire with the government.

Others point to internal divisions within the guerrilla force, which is
calling for land redistribution and social reforms.

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Barry Stoller

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