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South America

First group of FARC rebels lay down arms under Colombia peace deal, says UN

Marking a symbolic step for the end of the conflict, a group of rebels have officially laid down their arms, according to UN monitors. The UN said the rebels can formally "begin their reintegration into civilian life."

UN monitors on Friday said a group of rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) formally completed the disarmament process, marking a symbolic step in a peace accord that officially ended the decades-long conflict.

"A first group of 12 members of the FARC received today from the UN mission a certificate of completion of individual disarmament, which allows them to formally begin their reintegration into civilian life," the UN said in a statement.

"Which this event, a continuous process begins to certify the FARC members who are making the transition to civilian life after laying down their arms."

Under the peace agreement, FARC members are expected to participate in voluntary disarmament in exchange for returning to civilian life, where they may pursue their causes through democratic processes, including holding public office.

Roughly 6,800 FARC members remain in "peace zones" across the South American country, where they are handing over their arms in a process observed by more than 500 UN monitors.

'Complete peace'

Despite an initial setback during a nationwide referendum, Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos pushed the peace accord through congress. Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ending the half-century-old conflict.

However, critics have slammed the peace deal, saying it is too lenient in offering amnesty for "political crimes." However, rebels who committed torture, rape or massacres are not covered under the peace deal.

FARC rebels launched an insurgency in 1964 in response to the government's brutal repression of a peasant uprising. The brutal conflict left more than 250,000 people dead, seven million displaced and 50,000 disappeared.

It also drew in right-wing paramilitary groups, criminal organizations and other leftist groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN).

In February, the Colombian government opened negotiations with the ELN in a bid to secure a "complete peace" in the wake of the FARC accord.

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ls/kl (AFP, dpa, EFE)

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