Colombian rebels declare truce for elections

AFP, Friday 16 May 2014

Colombia's FARC rebel group said Friday it will observe a unilateral truce during the country's May 25 elections as a gesture of goodwill.

The FARC said the truce will run from May 20 through May 28, and will also include the forces of Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the ELN.

The truce announcement coincided with reports of a grenade attack in Colombia on Wednesday that wounded eight policemen. Local authorities blamed it on the FARC.

Two young people who carried out the attacks were themselves killed in the blast, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said, warning that using minors was "a war crime."

Santos, who is running for re-election, has repeatedly refused to agree to a cease-fire with the rebels during the peace talks.

On Tuesday, he reaffirmed his determination to pursue the rebels militarily until they sign a peace agreement.

In announcing the latest unilateral cease-fire, Pablo Catatumbo, a FARC delegate to peace talks in Havana, said rebel units were under orders to halt all offensive operations against the Colombian military or infrastructure during the election period.

"The insurgency doesn't believe in the Colombian electoral system," he said. "Nevertheless, we believe that a national clamor (for peace) should be heeded.

"Besides, we do it as a light of hope for a bilateral ceasefire," he said.

The FARC, Colombia's largest guerrilla group, has observed temporary, unilateral cease-fires on two previous occasions since the start of peace talks with the government in November 2012.

This would be the first time the ELN, or National Liberation Army, which is not a party to the peace talks, joins the FARC in a truce.

Catatumbo said the FARC's leader, Timoleon Jimenez, and the ELN's Nicolas Rodriguez had agreed on the pause in the fighting.

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