BOGOTA: At least 23 dissidents of the former FARC guerrilla group were killed during an operation by the Colombian armed forces along the Venezuelan border, the Defence Ministry said Thursday.
The dissidents "died during military operations" carried out in the northern border department of Arauca, a narcotrafficking corridor that has seen fierce fighting between armed groups since the beginning of the year, a source in the ministry told AFP.
Among the dead was a former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), known as "Arturo."
Five dissidents were additionally injured, the source said.
"This operation forcefully dismantles the FARC dissident structure," said Colombian Defence Minister Diego Molano, in a video published to social media.
Colombia signed a peace agreement in 2016 with the FARC to end a decades-long battle, but some dissident members of the group have chosen not to recognize it.
The defense minister said Arturo "took refuge in Venezuela and from there sought to reactivate the dissident groups to continue committing crimes."
Former FARC dissidents, as well as members of Columbia's last active guerilla group known as the ELN, have set up bases in Venezuela, where Colombian authorities say they receive government backing -- an accusation Caracas denies.
Another rebel group leader known as "Ernesto" was also killed in the operation, which adds to a recent string of successful military offensives.
Last month, the president announced the "neutralization" of the rebel group leader known as "Jhonier," while in October of last year the drug kingpin known as "Otoniel" was captured.
He is now awaiting extradition to the United States.