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Missile purchase by Colombia's FARC rebels raises concerns

Colombia's FARC guerrillas have allegedly purchased at least seven anti-aircraft missiles that experts say could threaten U.S.-provided helicopters essential to the South American country's fight against the rebels.

Peruvian prosecutors detailed the purchases when they charged a dozen people in December with buying hundreds of weapons from crooked Peruvian security force officials and delivering them to an arms buyer for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The missiles could complicate Colombia's decades-old civil war, where the military has made strong gains in recent years by deploying a fleet of U.S.-provided transport and attack helicopters for swift raids on FARC targets.

Colombian military analyst Alfredo Rangel said that if the Peruvian allegations are true, the handful of missiles "could be used to shoot down a couple of helicopters," but "their impact would not be very significant."

The weapons likely would be devoted to the defense of the FARC's top leaders but "would not allow the FARC to shift to the offensive or alter the balance of power against the government forces," he told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview.

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