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FARC rebels begin disarmament in Colombia

Rebels and UN observers have begun the process of inventorying the guerillas' weapons in preparation for their destruction. FARC leaders and President Santos both praised the "historic" move.

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Colombian FARC rebels begin disarming process

Thousands of Colombia's FARC rebels moved closer to peace on Wednesday as they began working with United Nations observers to catalogue all their weaponry. The move was a key sign of good faith that the leftist guerillas are truly willing to lay down all their arms after fifty years of conflict with the government.

FARC fighters have spent the past weeks gathering at demobilization zones designated by a historic ceasefire agreement ratified by both sides in November. Once all of FARC's 6,900 militants have surrendered at the camps and handed over their arms, the UN will then supervise the weapons' destruction.

FARC chief Rodrigo "Timochenko" Londono wrote on Twitter that the rebels were handing over their guns "with enthusiasm." At the same time, another senior commander, Carlos Antonio Lozada, called it "a transcendental moment in the life of any fighter."

"Those weapons guaranteed our lives," he told Caracol Radio. "But I think we will feel safe in the belief that we are doing the right thing."

President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the FARC truce, hailed the disarmament as "historic news for Colombians."

ELN rebels still stubborn on peace deal

The Colombian conflict been in the 1960s, when left-wing extremists, outraged at the widespread corruption in Bogota and the crushing poverty experienced by some sectors of the country, began to engage in guerilla warfare against the government. The largest of these leftist groups was the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

After five decades of violence and more than 200,000 casualties, both sides agreed to begin peace negotiations in 2012. Truce brokers managed to reach a deal in August 2016, only to have that agreement defeated in a popular referendum in October. Many Colombians voted against the deal due to a clause granting amnesty to the guerillas who surrendered.

FARC and Bogota signed a revised deal on November 24. However, the radical Marxist group known as the National Liberation Army (ELN), has not yet agreed to any ceasefire, leaving one side of the country's asymmetrical conflict still unresolved.

es/bw (AFP, AP)

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