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Colombia rebel group leader dies

More than 30 years after exchanging his priest's collar for a gun, the leader of Colombia's second-largest rebel group has died, another guerrilla leader said Monday.

Manuel Perez, 62, a native of Spain who for decades led the National Liberation Army, or ELN, died Feb. 14 at a jungle hideout, said Francisco Galan, a jailed rebel leader.

"The death of Commander Manuel Perez Martinez is difficult to take," Galan told Radionet radio from his maximum-security cell. "But he left us many teachings."

Galan did not say how Perez died. The army had no immediate comment.

Perez was defrocked after he took up arms, but still went by the name "Cura Perez" or "Father Perez."

It is not clear how Perez's death will effect peace talks between ELN and the government. Rebel and government representatives were to meet in June.

The nation's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has refused to take part in the talks.

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