Bodies of pilots from crashed Colombian military plane retrieved
July 13, 2012 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
- FARC rebels handed over one of the bodies to Red Cross officials
- Afterward, rebels fired homemade mortars at Colombian soldiers
- The plane crashed Wednesday during a visit by President Santos
Jambalo, Colombia (CNN) -- The bodies of two pilots who were aboard a Colombian Air Force plane when it crashed Wednesday in a rebel zone in southwestern Colombia were retrieved Thursday.
The plane had been supporting troops fighting rebels in the mountains near the town of Jambalo in Cauca province.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels said they shot down the plane; government officials said the crash may have been caused by mechanical failure.
Firefighters found the remains of one of the plane's pilots at the crash site; FARC rebels had removed the body of the other pilot and turned it over to the Red Cross.
After the handover, a group of about 10 FARC rebels attacked army positions, firing homemade mortars called tatucos from atop a mountain upon which a 30-foot wooden cross had been erected. The firefight lasted for about 20 minutes, before the guerrillas escaped. There were no reports of casualties.
The plane had been flying over the area in order to provide security for Wednesday's visit by President Juan Manuel Santos to the nearby town of Toribio.
Santos was there to meet with villagers over their demands that both government soldiers and members of the FARC leave the area.
He has seen his ratings among Colombians drop in recent weeks because of the widespread perception that the security situation has gotten out of control during his leadership.
CNN's Esprit Smith contributed to this report
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