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Colombia Fighting Kills 48, Mostly Anti-Government Forces - 2004-02-23

At least 48 people have died in fresh fighting in Colombia, after government troops clashed with leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary fighters in different parts of the country.

Colombian military officials say troops killed 17 rebels from the country's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The fighting Sunday took place west of the capital, Bogota.

A day earlier, 21 paramilitary fighters were killed near the town of Villanueva, located north of the capital, in Colombia's cattle-ranching region. Ten soldiers also died in what was described as a heated battle.

The renewed clashes took place, even though Colombia's main paramilitary umbrella group, known as the United Self-Defense Forces, has declared a unilateral cease-fire. The group has been involved in on-going peace negotiations with President Alvaro Uribe's government.

Colombia's civil war has dragged on for four decades. Thousands die in the fighting every year in the three-way conflict that involves the government, two main leftist rebel groups and right-wing paramilitary fighters.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.