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Ecuador pulls diplomat from Bogota

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Correa calls raid a "massacre" that killed civilians, pulls ambassador
  • Strike kills two leading FARC figures, including second-in-command
  • Chavez orders 10 battalions to Colombian border, closure of embassy
  • Chavez pledges to "support Ecuador in any circumstance"
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(CNN) -- Ecuador's President Rafael Correa withdrew his government's ambassador in Bogota, Colombia, and ordered troops to the country's border following a Colombian raid against leftist rebels inside Ecuador.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa recalls his country's ambassador to Bogota on Sunday.

In a televised address, Correa called a raid by Colombian national police and air force one day earlier a "massacre" that killed civilians.

The strike at dawn Saturday killed two leading figures in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist movement that has fought a guerrilla war against the country's government for some 40 years. One of the dead was FARC's second-in-command, Luis Edgar Devia Silva, known as "Raul Reyes."

The incident has triggered a crisis among the three countries, as Venezuela President Hugo Chavez also ordered 10 battalions of troops to the Colombian border and the closure of Venezuela's embassy in Bogota.

Chavez pledged to "support Ecuador in any circumstance," he said on his weekly talk show, "Alo Presidente," or "Hello, President." Video Watch the implications of the raid »

"We don't want war, but we will not allow the North American empire -- which is the master -- and its sub-President [Alvaro] Uribe and the Colombian oligarchy to divide, to weaken us. We will not allow it."

The three countries are neighbors, with Colombia, a U.S. ally, squeezed between Ecuador, to the southwest, and Venezuela, to the east.

In the past two months, Chavez has brokered FARC's release of six hostages, who were among 750 hostages the group is estimated to be holding in the jungles of Colombia.

Reyes, who was a member of the seven-man FARC leadership council known as the general secretariat, played a key mediation role in their release.

Also killed was Guillermo Enrique Torres or "Julian Conrado," who was a key FARC ideologue.

"The Colombian oligarchy says it was combat," said Chavez, whose leftist politics have been credited for his warm relations with the rebel group. "It was not combat. It was a cowardly murder, coldly prepared in its entirety. The truth is coming out."

Chavez said Saturday that the Colombian government had violated Ecuador's sovereignty and added that, had the operation been conducted on Venezuelan soil, he would have declared war against Colombia.

"Colombia's government recognizes -- in a happy and irresponsible attitude -- that it has violated the sovereignty of a neighbor country, and that's worrisome," he said.

"President Uribe, think well. Don't think about doing that over here, don't think it. Because it would very serious, a military raid in Venezuelan territory would be casus belli [cause for war]. There is not any excuse."

Also on Saturday, Correa told reporters in Quito that Uribe told him the raid occurred after a FARC column fled across the border and fired at Colombian forces, who "had to defend themselves."

But Correa said his forces investigated Uribe's claims and discovered that the Colombian planes attacked the guerrillas as they slept in a camp 2 km ( 1.2 mi) inside Ecuador.

"Of course Ecuadoran air space was invaded," he said.

He said Colombian ground forces then crossed into Ecuador and retrieved Reyes' body, leaving the others.

"We will not permit this outrage," he said. "Either President Uribe was misinformed and will have to sanction his commanders who deceived him, breaking every international bilateral proceeding by entering our territory or Uribe simply lied. In either case, the situation is extremely grave and the Ecuadoran government is disposed to go to the ultimate consequences."

Chavez called Uribe a "liar," a "criminal" and a "gangster."

"Colombia is a terrorist state, a subject of the biggest terrorist in the world, the United States government, and all of its imperialist apparatus," Chavez said to applause.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos denied that Colombia violated Ecuadoran airspace in the operation..

The White House said Sunday it was "monitoring the situation."


"This is an odd reaction by Venezuela to Colombia's efforts against the FARC, a terrorist organization that continues to hold Colombians, Americans and others hostage," spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

FARC has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in a long-running and complex civil war that also has involved right-wing paramilitaries, government forces and drug traffickers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Hugo ChavezEcuadorColombiaVenezuela

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