BOGOTA — Leftist guerrillas killed 12 Colombian army troops Monday and wounded four others in an ambush in a rural area in the northern tip of Colombia near the border with Venezuela, authorities said.
"Unfortunately we have received reports of 12 soldiers dead and four wounded," said Yusti Maria Lopez, a security official in Maicao, the capital of the department of La Guajira.
The ambush occurred in the Serrania de Perija mountain range in an area known as La Majayura, the official said.
"Regional and national officials are drawing up a toll. We aren't ruling out that there were guerrilla dead too, but that's being analyzed by the army," Lopez said.
Numerous indigenous communities live in the Guajira peninsula.
Local mayor Eurpides Pulido condemned the attack, which rocked a quiet and isolated area in which indigenous ethnic Wayuu, Kogi, Ika, Kankuamo and Wiwa people live.
On the heels of the strike, President Hugo Chavez in neighboring Venezuela, ordered border security beefed up.
"We have stepped up air patrols as of this morning... because we maintain our position, that we will not permit incursions of any armed force, whatever its type might be, into Venezuelan territory," Chavez said on official VTV television.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have stepped up attacks on Colombian security forces over the past year in remote parts of the country.
In April, 15 soldiers were killed in fighting in the southern department of Caqueta, while in March 11 other soldiers were ambushed and killed in the eastern department of Arauca, which also borders Venezuela.
The FARC is Colombia's oldest and largest insurgent group with about 9,200 men under arms, according to defense ministry estimates.
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