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Colombian army and FARC guerrillas begin clearing landmines

A mission to clear landmines in Colombia has begun with the army and FARC guerrillas working together. Colombia is third in the list of countries with the most landmine accidents.

A preliminary mission has been carried out by Colombian troops and fighters with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) over seven days in Antioquia, a northern region of Colombia, which has the

highest number of landmine accidents in the country

.

Officials from Cuba and Norway have

facilitated talks

being held in Havana between the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas, which led to the assessment being carried out from May 20-27. Cuban diplomat Rodolfo Benitez said the preliminary mission was to "to gather information to identify the areas that are really contaminated with mines." Later missions, planned to start at end of June, will remove and destroy the mines.

After fifty years of a guerrilla insurgency, there are thousands of landmines in the ground. Since 1990, mines have killed more than 2,000 people and injured more than 9,000. After Cambodia and Afghanistan, Colombia is third on the list of countries with the most landmine accidents.

There were doubts the mission would go ahead in light of the deaths of eleven soldiers in April, in an ambush described by FARC as a "defensive action,” as well as government air and ground strikes on FARC positions which have killed 40 of its fighters, including two leaders.

The peace talks in Cuba began in late 2012 and have reached partial agreement on several issues but there is not yet a final accord.

The FARC had declared a unilateral ceasefire in December.

More than 200,000 people have died and six million displaced since the FARC launched its guerrilla war in 1964.

jm/jr (EFE, AFP)

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