Bombardment kills at least 18 Colombian rebels

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At least 18 Colombian FARC rebels were killed early yesterday when the country's air force bombed a southern jungle camp where dozens of guerrillas were clandestinely celebrating the new year, officials said.

The bombardment took place in the province of Meta, an area used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to produce the cocaine that funds its decades-old war insurgency.

"While Colombia's families celebrated the holiday, our soldiers kept their commitment to confront narco-terrorism in the jungles of the country," Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said.

Fifteen FARC guerrillas surrendered to Colombian ground troops who stormed the camp after the bombing, officials said.

The FARC has been pushed deeper into rural areas by President Alvaro Uribe's U.S.-backed military policies. The outlawed rebel army has been cut roughly in half to about 9,000 fighters since the popular Uribe first took office in 2002.