FARC confirms that rebel leader is dead

CARACAS — The longtime leader of Colombia's FARC guerrillas is dead, a rebel leader confirmed Sunday, plunging Latin America's oldest and most powerful insurgency into an uncertain future at a time when a government offensive already had the Marxist group on the run.

Manuel "Sure Shot" Marulanda died on March 26 of natural causes, guerrilla senior commander Timoleon Jimenez said, in a video broadcast by the Venezuela-based Telesur network. Marulanda was 78 or 80 years old.

Jimenez corroborated a statement from the Colombian Ministry of Defense on Saturday that many found hard to believe because Marulanda's death has been reported frequently over the years. Marulanda died "in the arms of his companion, surrounded by bodyguards and all the units who comprised his security," Jimenez said, adding that Marulanda's death came after an undisclosed illness.

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