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FACTBOX-Colombia's FARC guerrillas

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Sun, 14 Oct 2012 12:00 GMT
Author: Reuters
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BOGOTA, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Ten years of heavy blows have substantially weakened the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group, known as the FARC, but failed to deliver the coup de grace that would end nearly five decades of war.

Now President Juan Manuel Santos is attempting what many other leaders have tried but failed to do in the past - reach a negotiated deal with the FARC's Marxist leaders.

Following are some facts about the FARC:

* Listed as a terrorist organisation by U.S. and European officials, the group was set up in 1964 as a communist-inspired peasant army fighting to reduce the gulf that still divides rich and poor in the South American country.

* The FARC was once a powerful force with more than 17,000 fighters capable of planting bombs in cities and kidnapping almost at will. It controlled large parts of the country.

* Former President Alvaro Uribe's U.S.-backed security drive weakened the rebels substantially, sending them back into remote hide-outs. The rebels now number about 8,000 fighters.

* The FARC remains a force in some rural areas, mainly in southern jungles where the rebels have held hostages in secret camps for as long as a decade.

* The FARC said in 2008 its top commander and founder, Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda, died of a heart attack. Second-in-command Raul Reyes was killed in a bombing raid on his camp inside Ecuador the same year, and another top commander was betrayed and shot by his bodyguard shortly afterward.

* In September 2010, a top rebel military commander, Mono Jojoy, was killed in a bombing raid and ground assault on his camp. In 2011, Colombian forces killed FARC chief Alfonso Cano in a raid.

* The FARC has used Colombia's cocaine trade to fund its operations. The conflict has been reduced in many regions to turf battles over cocaine-producing land involving the FARC, outlawed paramilitaries and other drug smuggling gangs. In some areas, the FARC forms alliances with other armed groups.

(Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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