Colombia's battle against leftist FARC guerrillas has been secretly aided by a US intelligence program that helped government forces hunt down and assassinate rebel leaders, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The secret CIA program -- separate from the $9 billion US aid package dubbed Plan Colombia, which launched in 2000 -- was initially authorized by president George W. Bush around the same time.

President Barack Obama has continued the assistance, the Post reported, citing its interviews with more than 30 current and former officials from both the United States and Colombia.

The covert program works in two ways: the US provides intelligence to help locate the FARC leaders, and it furnishes a special GPS guidance kit that helps convert standard bombs into highly-precise smart bombs.

It was thanks to US information that the FARC number two, Raul Reyes, was found and killed in 2008, the report said, noting that the CIA program had helped Colombia eliminate "at least two dozen rebel leaders".

The Reyes operation was carried out on March 1, 2008, in neighboring Ecuador.

"To conduct an airstrike meant a Colombian pilot flying a Colombian plane would hit the camp using a US-made bomb with a CIA-controlled brain," the Post said, adding that the United States justified the incursion in another sovereign country's territory as self-defense for Colombia.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has conducted an insurgency against the state since its founding in 1964.

Then president Alvaro Uribe waged a fierce war against the FARC during his 2002 to 2010 presidency, reducing Colombia's largest leftist rebel group by half -- it now numbers some 8,000 fighters -- and confining it to remote areas of the country.

The FARC has been in peace talks with the government of current President Juan Manuel Santos for over a year. The two sides are currently discussing drug trafficking as part of an attempt to reach a comprehensive peace deal.


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