The Miami Herald
Mar. 17, 2002

Outspoken archbishop shot dead in Colombia

                      Associated Press

                      BOGOTA - Unidentified gunmen killed Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino of the city of Cali on Saturday,
                      silencing a voice that had often been critical of leftist Colombian rebels.

                      Duarte was dead on arrival at Carlos Holmes Trujillo Hospital, said hospital director Ricardo Vanegas. TV
                      footage showed people weeping outside the hospital in Cali, Colombia's third-largest city.

                      Edilberto Ceballos, Duarte's driver, told Caracol radio network that the archbishop was shot several
                      times, including in the head.

                      ''Two guys came and opened fire and hit him three or four times, maybe even six times,'' the driver said.
                      ``I saw him dead.''

                      No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

                      Duarte had frequently criticized leftist rebels for their attacks and kidnappings. Colombia's 38-year-old
                      civil war has intensified since peace talks with the main rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
                      Colombia, or FARC, collapsed on Feb. 20.

                      A smaller rebel group, the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, had also earned Duarte's ire for
                      conducting mass kidnappings in Cali in recent years, including abducting worshipers at a Cali church.
                      Although talks with the FARC collapsed, the ELN is participating in peace talks with Colombian
                      government representatives in Havana, Cuba.

                      Alvaro Uribe, who is leading the polls ahead of presidential elections next May 26, said he was
                      saddened by the assassination.

                      ''The truth is that he is irreplaceable,'' Uribe told reporters in Cali, where he was on a campaign swing.

                      In other violence Saturday, Colombian army troops attacked leftist rebels inside the FARC's former safe
                      zone in southern Colombia, killing 17 guerrillas, the army said.

                      Soldiers had been pursuing FARC rebels in the region for days after the guerrillas set up a roadblock
                      and detained buses and 42 people, the army's 4th division commander, Gen. Arcesio Barrero, said.

                      They finally caught up with them early Saturday outside Vistahermosa, about 170 miles south of the
                      capital, Bogotá.

                      ''It was a profound blow,'' Barrero said.

                      The battle Saturday was one of the heaviest in the former safe zone since President Andrés Pastrana
                      ended a three-year peace process with the FARC last month and launched a military operation to
                      retake parts of the Switzerland-sized zone.

                      During a police counternarcotics operation in the zone Friday, agents destroyed two cocaine-processing
                      laboratories controlled by the FARC and burned 7.4 tons of cocaine found there, police said.

                      The labs were located near Vistahermosa and La Macarena. Together, the labs were capable of
                      producing four tons of cocaine every week, National Police chief Ernesto Gilibert said Saturday.

                      Colombia's 38-year-old conflict -- in which two guerrilla armies are battling the government and a
                      right-wing paramilitary group -- kills an estimated 3,500 annually.

                      In addition to the 17 deaths in the former rebel haven, soldiers in Cundinamarca and Antioquia
                      provinces also killed 10 rebels in fighting late Friday, army Capt. Jorge Florez said.