Clashes between leftist guerrilla groups killed at least nine suspected rebels in northeast Colombia in a fight for control over a drug route, a government military commander said on Wednesday.
The Andean nation's cocaine-fueled war has waned in the eight years since President Alvaro Uribe took power, but low-level fighting continues in rural areas between rebels, drug barons, paramilitaries and the national army.
Rafael Neira, commander of the army's 18th brigade, said fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and National Liberation Army, or ELN, clashed in a remote area of Arauquita municipality in Arauca province on the border with Venezuela.
"Fighting between the two terrorist factions left nine dead, who were members of one or the other of the armed groups," Neira told Reuters by telephone, adding that the fight was over control of a drug route.
Only a few years ago, rebel attacks against an important pipeline and oil installations in Arauca were frequent, but the U.S.-backed war on guerrillas has had a dramatic impact on the insurgents' ability to wage war.
The two rebels groups said last year that they may join forces against Colombia's government after years of being pushed onto the defensive.
The ELN, formed by renegade Catholic priests and inspired by the liberation theology movement of the 1960s, has clashed repeatedly with the communist FARC over the years.
ReutersLast Mod: 02 Haziran 2010, 20:34