Two rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been killed in fighting with government troops in the north of the country, a first case of armed hostility in apparent violation of a recent bilateral ceasefire deal.
The Colombian army said in a statement that the fatalities occurred in the country’s northern Bolivar Province on Wednesday when the rebels left their designated zones with weapons and were targeted by military forces.
Under a peace deal revised and finalized by the Colombian government and the FARC leaders on November 12, until full disarmament, the rebels must remain in predetermined areas and have to provide the military with their coordinates if they want to leave.
The two rebels were extorting people in the area some 68 kilometers (42 miles) from the area of concentration and carrying weapons, the military said in the statement, adding that a third one surrendered and was detained.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebels first reached a peace agreement in September. That deal, however, was surprisingly rejected by a narrow margin of popular voters in a referendum two months later.
Colombia’s FARC lead negotiator Ivan Marquez (L) and lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle (R) sign a new peace deal while Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez looks on, in Havana, Cuba, November 12, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
The original deal had attracted opposition from some politicians and their supporters, who said that it did not properly punish FARC rebels for crimes committed in the past 52 years of armed conflict. The government thus engaged in new talks with the FARC, and a revised deal emerged.
President Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize despite the original deal’s rejection, now hopes to unite the divided country behind the new agreement. He had launched the original negotiations with the rebel group after taking office in 2010.
The FARC rebel group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight against perceived deep economic and social inequalities, now controls large swathes of Latin America
’s third most-populous country.
The decades-long conflict with the central government has left as many as 260,000 people dead, more than six million others displaced, and still 45,000 others missing.