Bogota battle kills 85

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The Independent Online
A BATTLE between Colombia's army and Marxist rebels from the Farc (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) left at least 85 people dead and 96 soldiers missing in mountains just 16 miles east of Bogota, the capital, yesterday.

The attack came just two weeks before long-awaited peace talks with President Andres Pastrana. Fighting so close to the capital is rare in this conflict which has raged for nearly four decades. About 500 rebels fought five army battalions supported by helicopter gunships and air force combat planes.

Farc has around 12,000 armed insurgents. It controls an autonomous region the size of Switzerland. The battle was at Gutierrez, which connects Bogota to this jungle region. At least 1.5 million civilians have been displaced by the conflict in the past 15 years.