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Colombian rebel leader Marulanda dead

Article published on the 2008-05-25 Latest update 2008-07-10 13:18 TU

The founder of FARC, Manuel Marulanda(Photo : Reuters)

The founder of FARC, Manuel Marulanda
(Photo : Reuters)

Colombian rebel group the Farc has confirmed the death of top commander Manuel Marulanda, saying he died of a heart attack. His death was reported on Saturday by the military and the media. Thought to be 78 years-old, Marulanda had been rumoured to suffer ill-health, including suspected prostate cancer.

The rebel leader founded the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) over four decades ago. He organised the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in the 1960's to bridge the gap between rich and poor. 

Marulanda was last seen in public in 1982 and has been rumored to be dead at least 17 times. 

"The great leader is gone," the Farc's statement said. The military also said that Marulanda, known as "Sharpshooter", had been replaced by Alfonso Cano.

Marulanda's demise could mark the end of FARC after senior female commander Karina recently surrendered and the group's second in command Raul Reyes, was killed by the Colombian army in March.

Among the many captives held is the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt who was captured during the 2002 presidential election campaign.