A car bomb was defused in the capital Bogota allegedly intended for President Alvaro Uribe. Fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, clashed with troops in thick jungle near San Vicente del Caguan, 140 miles south-west of Bogota, killing two officers and three soldiers and wounding five others.
Reports also indicated casualties among the FARC, which has been waging a 40-year-old uprising to topple the government.
The army is pursuing a large-scale offensive in southern Colombia designed to kill or capture the FARC’s top commanders, believed to be hiding there.
Another three soldiers were killed and eight wounded after a patrol entered a booby-trapped house in Argelia, 100 miles north east of Bogota, while searching for FARC rebels.
Authorities also discovered a car laden with explosives in a car park in east Bogota. Intelligence indicated it was probably going to be used by rebels to try to kill Uribe, attorney-general Luis Camilo Osorio said.
Six kilos of explosives laced with ball bearings were concealed inside the red Mazda parked in the city’s Fontibon district, Osorio said.
“It was intended for yet another attack on the president,” he said. The FARC has repeatedly targeted Uribe in response to the aggressive military campaign against them.
In April 2002, during his run for president, a bomb planted under a bridge went off as his motorcade passed by in Barranquilla, killing three bystanders. A mortar attack during his August 2002 inauguration left 21 people dead.
Uribe travels with bodyguards and bomb-sniffing dogs. Hundreds of soldiers and police officers secure areas when he makes public appearances and helicopters provide aerial surveillance.
Colombia’s conflict kills 3,500 people every year.