QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A Colombian illegal armed group killed an Ecuadorean army lieutenant and wounded a corporal early Thursday in a two-hour firefight spanning a river between the two countries, Ecuador's armed forces chief said.
Gen. Leonardo Barreiro did not identify the group. But a Colombian army division commander across the border said they were members of the 48th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Colombian rebels regularly cross the border into Ecuador to flee pursuing troops and have occasionally clashed with Ecuadorean troops. But this was the first known instance of an Ecuadorean soldier being killed by a Colombian irregular
Barreiro said five of the Colombian irregulars were killed, but the military did not present any corpses.
He told reporters in Quito that fighting broke out when Ecuadorean soldiers surrounded the Colombians and called on them to surrender on the banks of the San Miguel river, which marks Ecuador's northern border with a coca-producing region of Colombia.
"But they were received with bullets," Barreiro said. "Simultaneously, another group of illegals, posted on the Colombian side of the San Miguel river, attacked our troops for two hours with rifle-launched grenades and sharpshooters."
Barreiro said about 60 elite government soldiers took part in the operation, backed by two helicopters.
Gen. German Giraldo, commander of the Colombian army division based across the border in Putumayo state, said the Ecuadoreans battled the FARC's 48th Front. Authorities say the front is funded largely by the cocaine trade.
FARC rebels easily blend into the civilian population of Ecuador's Sucumbios state, where the combat occurred in the town of Puerto Mestanza. It has long been home to the Western Hemisphere's largest concentration of refugees and has also provided refuge for Colombian rebels.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino asked Colombia to step up its border security "because these acts indicate they are insufficient."
"We need a greater presence and care by Colombia's government on its border so there are no more incursions by irregular forces on our territory," he said at a joint news conference with Barreiro.
Colombia's government had no immediate comment.
In March 2008, Colombian security forces crossed into the same region of Ecuador and killed a top FARC commander, Raul Reyes, in one of several jungle camps that the rebels operated just across the border.
Colombian authorities complained at the time that Ecuador was harboring the FARC. They later provided video and electronic documents that they said proved the FARC had contributed to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa.
Correa condemned the cross-border raid and enlisted many Latin American governments in condemning Colombia for violating his country's territory.
Associated Press writers Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, and Libardo Cardona in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has obtained a court order to prevent a Buffalo woman from ever selling puppies again.
A 24-year-old man being sought after his mother and brother were found dead in their Lehigh Acres, Florida home may be heading to Buffalo.
Around 5 p.m. on Thursday near the corner of Model City Road and Rt. 104, police say 84-year-old Jose Martinez was hit by a car driven by 82-year-old Maura Nolan. Both are residents of Lewiston.
Some lake snow today, though the next system on Saturday will bring a more widespread coating
The Erie County Legislature approved a resolution Thursday to immediately hire 15 seasonal drivers to fill a staff shortage.
After a slow and slippery commute Thursday night, many western New Yorkers are waking up early, hoping they can get to work on time Friday morning.