March 4, 2008 / 12:22 PM / in 10 years

Colombia says FARC wanted to make radioactive bomb

GENEVA (Reuters) - Colombia said on Tuesday that FARC rebels had been planning to make a “dirty bomb” with radioactive material, threatening the entire Latin American region.

<p>A Colombian soldier talks on a radio at the San Miguel bridge at the Ecuador-Colombia border March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja</p>

The charges by Vice-President Francisco Santos, at the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, marked a dramatic turn in a regional crisis that has seen Venezuela and Ecuador cut diplomatic ties with Colombia.

Bogota has already accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of funding the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, after Colombian forces crossed into Ecuador and killed a senior rebel commander on Saturday, sparking troop movements and warnings of war.

“Just yesterday (Monday) our national police submitted an initial report regarding the content of two computers found with Raul Reyes, second in command of FARC, who was killed last Saturday,” Santos said.

They contained “information from one commander to another indicating that FARC was apparently negotiating for radioactive material, the primary basis for generating dirty weapons of mass destruction and terrorism,” he added.

Initial information verified with international support showed “terrorist groups, based on the economic power of drug trafficking, constitute a serious threat not to just our country but to the entire Andean and Latin American region,” he said.

Saturday’s raid was a major blow to Latin America’s oldest rebel group but also eliminated a key contact for governments such as France, Venezuela and Ecuador who are in talks to free hostages held by FARC for years in jungle camps.

Chavez has brokered the release of six captives since the start of the year in those talks. The anti-U.S. leader has denied Colombia’s charges that he was funding FARC.

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Jon Boyle

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