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Venezuela, Ecuador mass troops on Colombia border

The countries sent troops to protest Colombia's killing of a FARC leader in Ecuador.

By Chris KraulLos Angeles Times / March 4, 2008

Ecuadorean soldiers board a helicopter in Lago Agrio, northeast Ecuador, that will take troops to the border with Colombia. Ecuador's President Rafael Correa ordered the expulsion of Colombia's ambassador to Ecuador and mobilized troops along the Colombian border in response to Colombian security forces entering Ecuadorean terrirotry to kill a high ranking FARC commander.

Dolores Ochoa/AP

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Bogotá, Colombia

Ecuador and Venezuela say they are moving thousands of troops to Colombia's borders, a day after Colombian forces killed a leftist rebel leader in Ecuadorean territory. Colombia later charged that high-ranking Ecuadorean officials met recently with the slain rebel, Raúl Reyes, to accommodate the guerrillas' presence there.

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The developments raised tensions in a region that has been on edge in the several months since Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez had a bitter falling-out. Mr. Reyes was the second-ranking commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

At a news conference late Sunday, Colombian National Police director Oscar Naranjo said that files in three laptop computers recovered in a jungle camp a mile inside Ecuador, where Reyes's body was found, show that the rebel met Jan. 18 and Jan. 28 with Ecuadorean Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea to discuss several issues, including stationing Army and police officers "who were not hostile to the FARC."

Mr. Naranjo also said documents show that Mr. Larrea and Reyes discussed a meeting between Reyes and President Rafael Correa in which Reyes's "secure transport" would be guaranteed. "The questions posed by these documents merit a response from the Ecuadorean government," Naranjo said.

In a nationwide address late Sunday, President Correa rejected Colombia's apology for the incursion and said President Uribe lied when he told him Saturday that Reyes and 16 other FARC rebels were killed in hot pursuit.

"They were massacred," Correa said.

The FARC, Colombia's largest rebel group, has been locked in a 40-year war with that nation's government. It holds 700 hostages.

Earlier Sunday, Ecuador said it was moving additional troops to defend its northeastern border with Colombia, expelled Colombia's ambassador and recalled its own ambassador to Bogotá. Saturday's killing of Reyes was a "violation of the territorial integrity and legal system of Ecuador," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Meanwhile, leftist Venezuelan President Chávez said he was sending troops to his country's border with Colombia.

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