CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — About 3,000 Venezuelan soldiers have been sent to bolster security along the border with Colombia after the neighboring country’s main rebel group carried out a deadly attack on a Colombian army patrol in the frontier region, Venezuela’s defense minister said Thursday.
Gen. Henry Rangel, who is leading the security operation near the border, said the additional troops were dispatched earlier this week, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency.
Colombian officials have said that guerrillas from the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, staged an attack Monday out of Venezuelan territory, killing 12 soldiers and wounding four in a rural area of Colombia. The commander of the Colombian army’s 1st Division, Gen. Jorge Eliecer Suarez, has said the FARC rebels then withdrew back into Venezuela.
After the attack, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that he had sent more troops to the border and that his military wouldn’t allow any armed groups to use Venezuela as a refuge.
Rangel said Thursday that more Venezuelan military units were still on their way to the border region. He told the Caracas-based television channel Telesur that Venezuela’s military is searching for “elements of armed groups that may have penetrated into Venezuelan territory.”
Rangel also said that 10 Colombians had been detained by Venezuelan authorities after this week’s attack. It was unclear whether they were rebels.
Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin traveled to Caracas on Thursday and met with her Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro.
In a joint statement that Maduro read afterward, the two governments agreed to boost communication and cooperation in order to tighten security in the border region.
Holguin thanked Venezuela for sending troops to the area and called it a joint effort. Maduro reiterated that his government will not allow “illegal groups of any type” to operate in Venezuela.