Colombia's FARC rebels turn in weapons, end armed war with government

MESETAS, Colombia (AP) - Colombia reached a major milestone on its road to peace Tuesday as leftist rebels relinquished some of their last weapons and declared an end to their half-century insurgency.

United Nations monitors said on Monday they "have the entirety of the FARC's registered individual arms stored away".

The disarmament by the roughly 7,000 members of Colombia's biggest rebel group under a 2016 peace accord brings Latin America's oldest civil conflict close to a complete end.

The announcement comes a day before President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC's top commander Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, are to meet in one of the rural camps to commemorate the completion of the disarmament process.

FARC will now transform into a political party under the landmark deal, which also includes rural reforms, cooperation on combating drug trafficking and the creation of a system of transitional justice.

In the event in Mesetas, a small central town in an area that was once the group's stronghold, Timochenko said the Farc would continue to exist, but in a different legal and democratic form as it enters a new phase in its history.

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Critics such as conservative political leader Alvaro Uribe said it was too lenient on FARC members, some of whom will get amnesties or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict. Nearly every guerrilla at the Mariana Paez camp recalled the decade-long bloodletting that followed a previous attempt at peace in the 1980s, when as many 3,000 members of a FARC-aligned political party were gunned down by right-wing paramilitary assassins, sometimes in cahoots with state intelligence services.

President Santos is now trying to strike a similar deal with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's second-largest left-wing rebel group.

The FARC peace deal is seen as a key part of ongoing efforts to end the territorial and ideological conflicts in Colombia. The only exclusions from the list are the weapons used to provide security in the 26 FARC-EP camps until 1 August 2017. The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims.

The ELN kidnapped two Dutch journalists on June 19 and freed them five days later. "What's more important is we are witnessing step after step the willingness of the FARC to really demobilize and reintegrate and that should be reinforced by the state and government in fulfilling the promises and agreements signed".

Three women were killed in a bombing at a crowded shopping center in Bogota on June 17.

  • Adam Floyd