Alfonso Cano
Colombian FARC rebels executed four members of the country'security forces during a botched mission to free them after a decade as hostages, the most violent act by the group since troops killed its chief ideologue and leader, Alfonso Cano, on Nov. 4. REUTERS

Colombian forces killed top FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano on Friday in the biggest blow yet to Latin America's longest insurgency and a triumph for President Juan Manuel Santos, the country's defense ministry said.

Colombia had offered a reward of nearly $3.7 million for information leading to Cano's capture. The 63-year-old leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was reportedly tracked down in a jungle camp with the aid of telephone intercepts. Colombian authorities accused of him of crimes including massacres, kidnappings, and extortion.

Cano went from being a middle-class youth in the capital Bogota to being the top FARC leader after taking part in peace talks in Venezuela and Mexico during the 1990s. He took over leadership of the rebels after Manuel Marulanda, the group's co-founder, died of a heart attack in 2008.

The FARC, whose members have made incursions into Venezuela and Ecuador at times to elude Colombia's army, are on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The U.S. State Department said it holds Cano responsible for the manufacture and export of cocaine to the United States.

The oldest and largest of Colombia's left-wing rebel groups, FARC retains the ability to mount hit-and-run attacks, thanks partly to cash raised through its involvement in the illegal-drug trade and partly to the country's thick jungles.