Colombian security forces have killed the military chief of a leftist rebel group in a raid in southern Colombia. Officials say Wednesday's raid targeted a major rebel compound, where at least 20 other rebels died.
Officials say 30 planes and 27 helicopters took part in the attack on a rebel base in the jungle region south of the capital, Bogota.
President Juan Manuel Santos said he authorized the operation by soldiers and police officers earlier this week, before flying to New York for the United Nations General Assembly debate. He said officials had confirmed the death of Jorge Briceño, who was known as Mono Jojoy and served as the head of military operations for the leftist rebels.
Speaking in New York, Mr. Santos said Briceño's death was a major victory over the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Mr. Santos said Briceño was a symbol of the terrorism and violence that have caused so much damage to Colombia, and that his death is the biggest blow to date for the rebel group.
Officials accused the 57-year-old Briceño of having ordered a series of rebel attacks on military outposts and other sites during the 1990s. Colombian authorities had filed scores of criminal charges against him, including terrorism, murder and drug trafficking. The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Briceño's arrest.
President Santos said other FARC leaders were likely killed in this week's operation and that officials were trying to verify the identity of other bodies that were recovered in the raid.
He said the operation was code-named "Welcome" and that it should serve as a warning to the rebels.
Mr. Santos said the Colombian government is pursuing all FARC members. He said his administration cannot let down its guard or declare victory yet, because there is much work to be done.
Before taking office as president last month, Mr. Santos served as defense minister under former President Alvaro Uribe. As defense chief, he led a series of military strikes against the rebels, including operations to free several high-profile hostages and kill FARC leader Raul Reyes.
In Bogota, current Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said five security officers were injured in the raid, which sparked a long gun battle with rebels.
Rivera said the raid uncovered a large jungle compound that Briceño and other rebels used to evade security officials.
He said the site was the mother of all rebel camps, and included a concrete bunker with escape tunnels where Briceño was hiding.
In another operation earlier this week, officials raided a rebel stronghold in southwestern Colombia that killed 27 FARC members, including a senior commander.