Colombian governor killed by kidnappers

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At the end of a day of anguish and frustration, President Alvaro Uribe soberly told Colombians that kidnappers had slit the throat of a southern governor during the country's first major political abduction since he took office in 2002.

The killing of Luis Francisco Cuellar, governor of the state of Caqueta, underlined the threat still posed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), despite years of being battered by the Andean nation's US-backed military. The FARC didn't immediately take responsibility, but it has staged attacks over Christmas before.

"In the midst of pain, we reiterate today all our determination to defeat these terrorists," Mr Uribe said in a televised speech to the nation on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Mr Cuellar was dragged in his pyjamas from his home in Florencia, the capital of Caqueta.

Mr Uribe said senior military officials told him that "because security forces were in pursuit, the terrorists, so as to avoid gunfire, proceeded to cut the throat of the governor". He spoke in a grim monotone, a contrast to his anger earlier in the day.

Mr Cuellar was grabbed by eight to 10 men in military uniforms, who killed a police guard and used explosives to blow open the front door to the governor's home at about 10pm on Monday. Two other police guards suffered shrapnel wounds that were not life-threatening.

The 69-year-old's body was found lying at the top of a steep hill on the outskirts of Florencia between 10am and 11am on Tuesday. The discovery wasn't revealed by officials for more than six hours. Mr Cuellar had already been kidnapped four times since 1987.

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