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FARC rebels kill Colombian governor

BOGOTA, Colombia — Under pressure from government troops, Marxist rebels killed a provincial governor Tuesday after kidnapping him in a pre-Christmas raid in southern Colombia.

Colombian authorities said the rebels slit the throat of Luis Francisco Cuellar, the governor of southern Caqueta state, a traditional rebel stronghold.

Cuellar turned 69 on the day he died. The Bogota daily El Tiempo reported that the guerrillas may have used a machete to kill him.

"As they were being pursued by our forces, the terrorists — probably to avoid the sound of gunfire — slit the governor's throat," a somber President Alvaro Uribe said in a televised address late Tuesday.

The attack was the most brazen and macabre operation this year by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest guerrilla army known as the FARC.

The FARC has mostly been in retreat over the past seven years as the Uribe government mounted a series of military offensives. The army triumph's on the battlefield and a reduction of kidnappngs and other crimes have boosted the popularity of Uribe who is trying to change the constitution so he can run for a third term next year.

But 2009 marked a resurgence by the guerrillas, who have carried out numerous attacks on police and army installations. The FARC also kidnaps civilians for ransom and has, over the years, grabbed dozens of Colombian politicians in an effort to trade them for imprisoned guerrillas.

The guerrillas kidnapped Cullar Monday night after blowing open his front door with explosives and pushing him into a pickup truck in the provincial capital of Florencia.
The government blamed the kidnapping on the FARC's elite Teofilo Forero Mobile Brigade, the same unit that abducted three American military contractors near Florencia in 2003.

El Tiempo reported that Cuellar had been kidnapped by the FARC on four other occasions since 1987.