Colombian rebel group says it will stop attacks on military

FILE - Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel applauds as Colombia's President Gustavo Petro, left, and ELN commander Antonio Garcia, shake hands during a bilateral ceasefire agreement signing ceremony between Petro's government and the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla, at El Laguito in Havana, Cuba, June 9, 2023. ELN leaders on Tuesday, June 4, ordered their units to cease offensive actions against Colombian military forces while they negotiate a ceasefire with the Petro government. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)
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Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia’s largest rebel group said it will stop attacks on the nation’s military as it prepares for a ceasefire with the government that could bring both sides closer to ending five decades of war.

In a statement published Tuesday, the National Liberation Army’s Central Command ordered its units across the country to “cease all offensive actions” against the military on July 6, including espionage.

However the group known as the ELN said its fighters will continue to use their weapons to defend themselves from any attack staged by the military or other armed groups that operate in Colombia’s rural areas.

In June, the ELN and Colombia’s government agreed to take actions that will lead to a bilateral ceasefire on Aug. 3.

The ceasefire is supposed to last six months, and is meant to facilitate peace talks that began at the end of last year, and are expected to last at least until 2025.

The ELN has grown significantly since 2017, when it occupied areas of the country that were vacated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia following its peace deal with the government. The group known as the FARC has been Colombia’s biggest guerrilla army.

Today the ELN has an estimated 4,000 fighters who are active in Colombia’s Choco region, and also along the nation’s borders with Venezuela and Ecuador.

Humanitarian organizations have recently pointed out that as the ELN and other armed groups like the Gulf Clan fight over territory, thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes.

According to a UN report published in June, Colombia registered 214,000 internally displaced people in 2022.