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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Three FARC Guerrillas, Seven ELN Rebels Surrender in Colombia

BOGOTA – Three FARC guerrillas and seven ELN rebels surrendered to soldiers in different parts of Colombia, the army’s ANE news agency reported.

A Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebel “sought help” from troops from a counterinsurgency battalion in Tame, a city in the eastern province of Arauca, ANE said.

A second FARC guerrilla reached a military unit in Montañita, a city in the southern province of Caqueta, “after managing to escape from the terrorist organization,” ANE said.

The rebel, who had belonged to a FARC unit for three years, “decided to lay down his arms because he was tired of the abuse to which he was subjected,” the army said.

A third FARC guerrilla surrendered to an army battalion in Palmira, a city in the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca.

Six National Liberation Army, or ELN, guerrillas deserted and surrendered to army troops in the northwestern province of Choco, the army said.

Of the six rebels, two are women, one of whom was a squad leader, the army said.

The guerrillas “decided to surrender because they were tired of the mistreatment they were subjected to and due to the pressure from operations carried out by troops” in a rural area outside Quibdo, the capital of Choco province, the army said.

Another ELN guerrilla, meanwhile, surrendered to army troops in Caceres, a city in the northwestern province of Antioquia.

The ELN fighter deserted “with the arms issued to him, and went looking for soldiers ... with the goal of voluntarily surrendering and joining the demobilization program,” the army said.

The Defense Ministry runs the PAHD demobilization program, which was created by the government to help members of illegal armed groups return to civilian life.

From August 2002 to August 2009, 51,510 members of illegal armed groups demobilized in Colombia, of whom 31,671 were paramilitaries who surrendered under the peace process with the government and 19,839 were guerrillas and militiamen who turned themselves in individually, government figures show.

The armed forces command, meanwhile, said the son of FARC commander Arquimedes Muñoz Villamil, one of the leaders of the guerrilla group’s Central Command, was killed in an airstrike in southern Colombia.

Soldiers recovered 10 bodies after the bombing of the rebel camp in a rural area outside Planadas, a town in Tolima province.

The ELN, which was founded in 1964 and has some 5,000 fighters, has been engaged in an “exploratory phase” of peace talks with the government since December 2005.

The FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group, was also founded in 1964 and today operates across a large swath of this Andean nation.

The FARC, a Marxist rebel army that has fought a decades-old struggle against a succession of Colombian governments, holds some hostages for political leverage and others in hopes their families will pay for their release.

The guerrilla group suffered a series of blows last year, with the biggest coming on July 2, when the Colombian army rescued former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, U.S. military contractors Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, and 11 other Colombian police officers and soldiers.

The FARC had been trying to trade the 15 captives, along with 25 other “exchangeables,” for hundreds of jailed guerrillas.

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