The 13 Colombian guerrilla commanders who were killed in a bombing earlier this week had gathered in the community of El Silencio to receive literacy courses, a rebel defector told El Tiempo newspaper.
Monday’s bombing raid killed 38 members of Colombia’s Armed Revolutionary Forces, or FARC, including six commanders, three sub-commanders and four group leaders. The government has hailed the raid as the most devastating blow to the FARC's command structure in the five-decade history of the rebel band.
In a hospital-room interview, FARC member “Gilberto Castro” told the newspaper that the commanders had gathered in the village to take an eight-month reading comprehension course.
“That FARC doesn’t want its commanders to be illiterate, they want them to be people who can express themselves and write well,” he said. The course was being offered by university students, he said.
Castro said he managed to escape the bombing by throwing himself into a creek. But he suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and leg. When soldiers began searching the camp he turned himself in.
Castro said the killing of so many commanders was a blow to the organization, but he said the FARC had learned to deal with losses.
“The FARC has no lack of commanders,” he said. “If one dies they stick another one in to cover up the hole.”