Colombians in FARC-controlled areas fear reprisals

SAN JOSE DEL GUAVIARE, Colombia — This remote ranching and jungle region 200 miles south of Bogota is one of the historic heartlands of the Marxist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which continues to control large swaths of territory despite recent advances by the Colombian military.

The dramatic rescue last week of their most valuable hostages by Colombian soldiers disguised as guerrillas is a devastating humiliation for the insurgency, known as the FARC. Four of the 15 rescued hostages, particularly former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and the three American contractors, were the FARC's main bargaining chips in any possible negotiation with the Colombian or U.S. governments.

With the hostages free, Guaviare residents are bracing for a FARC backlash, as the rebels try to recover their military pride. Police officials here say they are checking into reports that the guerrillas have executed 16 of their own people so far.

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