FARC named a new leader a day after Alfonso Cano, the group's former head, was killed in a military operation [EPA]

Colombia's FARC rebels have named Timoleon Jimenez as their new leader after the group's previous head was killed in a Colombian military operation earlier this month.

In a statement on Tuesday from the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the group said it had designated 52-year-old Jimenez as its new chief on November 5, a day after his predecessor Alfonso Cano was killed while trying to break out of a military cordon in southwestern Colombia.

"We want to inform you that Comrade Timoleon Jimenez, with a unanimous vote by his companions in the secretariat, was designated on November 5 as the new commander of the FARC," said the statement published on the Bolivarian Press Agency website, a site that often carries messages from the rebels.

The US government has offered a $5m reward for Jimenez, known as Timochenko, and Colombia's government is offering another $2.6m for his capture.

Jimenez is the nom de guerre of Rodrigo Londono, who was born in the village of Calarca in western Colombia. He is one of the least visible rebel commanders.

One of his most recent appearances was in a May 2008 video confirming the death of FARC leader Manuel Marulanda.
Jimenez has been a member of the FARC's seven-man ruling secretariat since the 1980s, making him the longest-serving member, according to Carlos Lozano, an analyst for the Communist Party weekly Voz.

Blows to leadership

The rebels' leadership has suffered a series of blows beginning in March 2008, when the FARC's foreign minister, Raul Reyes, was killed in a bombing raid on a rebel camp across the border in Ecuador.

That raid yielded authorities a treasure trove of information from computers and digital storage.

That same month, the FARC's co-founder, Marulanda, died in a mountain hideout of a heart attack. Cano, the rebels' chief ideologist, was named to succeed him.

And in July 2008, commandos posing as international aid workers rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three US military contractors and 11 others in an elaborate and bloodless ruse.

Still, the FARC has been regrouping in recent months, and is believed to have about 9,000 fighters within a disciplined military hierarchy.

Source: Agencies