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Ecuador Hands Over Arrested Rebel To Colombia - 2004-01-03


Ecuadorean police have handed over to Colombia a top member of Colombia's largest Marxist rebel army, known as the FARC.

Simon Trinidad was arrested during a routine identity check in Quito late Friday. He was flown by police helicopter to the border Saturday for the handover to Colombian authorities, who will take him to Bogota for interrogation.

Mr. Trinidad's arrest is being called a huge victory for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Mr. Uribe pledges to crush the FARC.

Upon hearing the news, President Uribe said he will push forward until, in his words, "terror is totally dismantled" in Colombia. He also urged the FARC to disarm. Mr. Uribe said the only purpose for FARC's guerrilla army is kidnapping, murder and propping up a narcotics empire.

Mr. Trinidad, whose real name is Ricardo Palmera, is a member of FARC's ruling secretariat, and was the FARC negotiator during peace talks that collapsed in early 2002. Reports say no member of the FARC secretariat has ever been captured before. They also say FARC has up to 17-thousand armed members.

Mr. Trinidad is wanted in Colombia for at least 30 murders, bombings and kidnappings.

Colombian radio says Mr. Trinidad had been in Ecuador for the past two months. Other reports say Colombian agents were sent to Quito to positively identify Mr. Trinidad before his capture was announced.

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