FARC leader's death may be turning point for Colombia

The death of a the top military commander of Colombia's Marxist FARC rebels in a bombing raid on his camp is a devastating blow to the guerrilla army that may mark a turning point in the country's bloody conflict, analysts say.

Víctor Julio Suarez Rojas, who went by the name of Jorge Briceno and was better known as "Mono Jojoy," was killed along with 20 guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in a bombing raid Wednesday on his camp in southern Colombia, the government said.

Briceno's body was identified on Thursday. Local media, citing military sources, reported Henry Castellanos, known as Romana, who orchestrated mass kidnappings on Colombia's highways, was also killed in the operation.

"This is historic news for our country. It is the most resounding blow against the FARC in its entire history," said President Juan Manuel Santos, who took power last month. The FARC has been fighting the Colombian state since the mid-1960s.

"The symbol of terror in Colombia has fallen," Santos said from New York where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

Santos was to meet Friday with President Barak Obama on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting, and White House spokesman Mike Hammer said the "important victory for Colombia" would figure prominently in the talks.

Briceño was a mythical figure within the FARC, having grown up within its ranks.

A member of the seven-member ruling secretariat, and commander of the powerful Eastern Bloc, he is believed to have been behind the FARC's strategies of frontal attacks on military installations in the early 1990s and the wave of kidnappings of politicians, as well as having a hand in the FARC's drug business.

Many former hostages of the FARC described Briceno as bloodthirsty and cruel. Gloria Polanco, who was a hostage of the FARC for more than six years, said she felt relieved at Briceno's death.

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