Sunday, 5 February, 2023

10 dead in recent Colombia rebels clash: rights group

At least 10 people are believed to have died in recent fighting between armed rebel groups in Colombia near the Venezuelan border, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

"The information we have received reports at least 10 deaths in the department of Arauca as a result of clashes between the ELN (National Liberation Army) and the dissidents of FARC," the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, wrote Juan Pappier, a researcher with the international rights group, on Twitter.

The office of the ombudsman in Colombia, without specifying the number of fatalities, reported "the discovery of several bodies of men killed in fighting" that took place Monday and Tuesday in the small town of Puerto Rondo, in northeastern Colombia.

Neither the government nor military authorities have reacted to the announcements.

ELN fighters in the region are engaged in bloody conflict with FARC dissidents, with both groups having rejected a historic 2016 peace agreement with the government as well as a recent truce announced by the government of new President Gustavo Petro.

Petro, the country's first leftist leader, had declared on New Year's Eve that a temporary truce had been reached with the country's five largest armed groups, including the ELN, from January 1 to June 30.

But the ELN a few days later said it had not agreed to any such measure, forcing the government to walk back its major declaration, a reversal that dampened hopes for an end to decades of violence that has continued despite the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC.

Insurgents and drug traffickers battle over remote areas of the South American country as they seek to expand their territory and control over the cocaine trade.

In January 2022 ELN and other rebels engaged in fierce fighting in Arauca, leaving 50 people dead.

Peace talks between the ELN and the government will resume later this month in Mexico City.