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2002-04-10 | 11:59 a.m.

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Rebels have killed the kidnapped father of a Colombian boy whose plight came to symbolize for many the callousness of the country's insurgents, authorities said yesterday.

Leftist rebels shot and killed police Officer Norberto Perez and another office, Victor Manuel Marulanda, after they apparently tried to escape, National Police Chief Gen. Ernesto Gilibert said.

Perez was abducted more than two years ago when fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, attacked the small town where he was posted.

His terminally ill son, Andres Felipe Perez, later begged them to free his dad so they could see each other before he died.

The sight of the emaciated boy on national television stirred the country, prompting offers from prominent Colombians to swap places with the father and a plea from President Andres Pastrana for the rebels to show mercy.

The rebels refused, and in December, the 12-year-old boy died in his hospital bed from cancer.

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