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File photo of ELN rebels in Colombia
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/EFE/C. Escobar Mora

Colombia suspends peace talks with ELN rebels

January 29, 2018

The Colombian government has frozen peace talks with the ELN rebel group following a series of bombings. The attacks, only one of which was claimed by ELN, killed several police officers and injured dozens of others.


An upcoming round of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) was suspended by the country's president on Monday following a weekend of deadly attacks.

The developments are a step back in efforts to end Colombia's 50 years of conflict, which appeared to be nearing a resolution.

Read moreColombia struggles to accept guerrillas' new political role

Security forces accompany a coffin of a police officer who was killed in Colombia
Several police officers were killed in weekend violence that has been partially blamed on the ELN rebelsImage: picture alliance/dpa/colprensa/J. M. Cantillo

Why the talks were frozen
The government blames ELN for three separate attacks over the weekend that killed seven police officers and wounded dozens of others:

  • On Saturday, a bomb went off outside a police station in the port city of Barranquilla, killing five officers and wounding 41 as police were assembling for roll call.
  • A bomb in the rural Bolivar province killed two police officers late Saturday night. On Sunday morning, a third attack took place in the city of Soledad, injuring six people.
  • ELN reportedly claimed responsibility only for the Barranquilla attack.
  • Colombia's government and the ELN agreed to their first-ever ceasefire in October, but the rebels launched attacks again this month when the ceasefire expired.

 Read moreUN chief Guterres headed to Colombia as peace talks falter

Two sides at odds
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the decision to freeze the talks at an event near Bogota, saying that his "patience and the patience of the Colombian people has its limits."

He said the talks would remain suspended "until we see coherence between the ELN's words and its actions."

The ELN said in a statement on Monday that it would back a new ceasefire but that its attacks would continue if there was no ceasefire deal in place.

Read moreFARC deal leaves Colombians out to dry

A step back from peace: The ELN entered into peace talks with the Colombian government in February 2017, but the negotiations have made halting progress due to ongoing attacks.

FARC deal: Santos won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for securing a peace deal with a larger rebel group called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Following its disarmament, the group formed a political party called the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force.

Who are the ELN: The rebel group was founded by radical Roman Catholic priests in 1964 and currently has around 2,000 members. They are considered more radical than FARC and less centralized.

rs/tj    (AFP, Reuters)

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