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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Colombia Drops Peace, Attacks FARC Territory

APIAY AIR BASE, Colombia -- Colombian air force jets bombed Marxist guerrilla camps and clandestine air strips Thursday as the government moved to retake a rebel enclave after a hijacking and abduction caused the collapse of three years of peace talks, military officials said.

An air force officer said pilots flying A-37 and AC-47 jets had flown 200 sorties out of Apiay air base in Meta Province, dropping 225-kilogram bombs on FARC rebel targets in the nearby zone that was ceded to the guerrillas in 1998 as a safe haven at the start of three years of fruitless peace talks.

President Andres Pastrana ended tortuous negotiations with the FARC rebels Wednesday night after guerrillas earlier in the day hijacked a domestic airliner, landed it on a rural highway and abducted a national senator who had been on board, driving away toward the rebel-held enclave.

A furious Pastrana said in a television address to the nation that he had ordered troops to retake control of the guerrilla-held demilitarized area after midnight.

"Today the glass of indignation spilled over," he said, calling the hijacking "an international offense classified as terrorism."

An officer at Apiay air base said the air force had been given a list of 80 targets to strike in the rebel enclave.

The atmosphere at the base was one of cheerful activity as the planes were loaded with bombs and roared out of the airfield near the Switzerland-sized FARC area on a starry, cloudless night.

"I'm proud. It's an honor to serve Colombia," said one pilot in his 20s as he crouched on the wing of his Tucano jet after returning a bombing mission against a FARC camp.

Pastrana, who had dedicated his presidency to peace talks with the 17,000-member FARC, announced his decision to end the peace talks just hours after four rebels hijacked a commercial turboprop operated by airline AIRES on a short domestic flight to the capital, Bogota.

After the rebels landed the plane and drove off with the opposition Senator Jorge Gechem, the remaining 29 passengers and crew were left stranded but safe.

Wagging his finger at the camera, the normally calm Pastrana accused the FARC of abusing his gesture in providing them with the enclave in late 1998 as a safe venue for peace talks.

He said the rebels had used the sparsely populated chunk of savanna and jungle to hide kidnap victims, run a cocaine business and build its military machine.

In a statement issued by the FARC's de facto official news agency, ANNCOL, the rebels blamed the collapse of talks on the president and Colombia's "oligarchy."

Colombia is gripped by a 38-year-old war that has claimed 40,000 lives in the past decade alone. Talks had done little to stem the fighting, which continued to rage outside the FARC territory.