The Colombian army has announced that the leader of the country’s second largest guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN), Hernandez Manrique, also known as ‘Marquitos,’ was killed in the Segovia municipality of Antioquia province in north-western Colombia.
"The narco-terrorist Jose Amin Hernandez Manrique, alias Marcos or Marquitos, head of the Dario de Jesus Ramirez Castro front of the ELN (National Liberation Army) and member of the national management was shot down," said Colombian army commander, General Jaime Lasprilla.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also tweeted on his personal account on Sunday that "Alias Marquitos, commander of the Dario Martinez front and member of the national leadership of the ELN, has been killed. Congratulations to the armed forces."
Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon meanwhile congratulated the Armed Forces for the fall of the rebel leader.
The Colombian government stated that Marquitos, a Marxist rebel commander, commanded 13 ELN units in the Antioquia and Bolivar provinces, which are known as key regions for drugs and arms trafficking as well as illegal mining.
Marquitos was also wanted for the hijacking of an Avianca passenger plane with nearly 50 people on board in 1999.
The ELN was founded in 1964 by priests inspired by the Cuban revolution, and has been battling the Colombian government for 51 years, conducting military operations throughout the country. It is estimated that the ELN forces consist of between 1,380 to 3,000 guerrillas.
Last January, the ELN, began holding exploratory peace talks with government authorities but has yet to enter a formal truce, unlike rebels the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who have been hammering out an accord with the government for 30 months in the Cuban capital, Havana, to end a 50-year conflict which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people and uprooted more than 6 million.