Deadly attack by rebel dissidents takes place in Cauca, a southwestern region that has seen a wave of violence.
Six Colombian soldiers have been killed fighting dissident rebels in the violence-ravaged southwestern region of Cauca, the country’s military said, as the government tries to end a decades-long conflict.
The Colombian military said on Tuesday the deaths occurred in a clash with dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist rebel group that signed a peace deal with the government in 2016.
President Gustavo Petro, who is pursuing a “total peace plan” with the South American country’s remaining armed groups, said the killed soldiers were between the ages of 18 and 20. According to the military, they encountered grenades, improvised explosive devices and gunfire.
“It was an infiltration operation” by one of the main dissident factions, Petro said.
Three military personnel were also killed this weekend by FARC dissidents in the same area, where armed groups are involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
The dissidents, who rejected the peace deal between the FARC and the government, said in September that they were ready to negotiate a down arms.
Since Petro took office as Colombia’s first leftist president in August, he and his aides have met with leaders of the two main factions of FARC dissidents with a view to building peace talks. According to the Indepaz think tank, there are about 5,200 combatants in total.
“So far we have only talked about the possibility [of a ceasefire]nothing more,” Petro said on Tuesday after a meeting with senior members of Colombia’s security forces.
Violence has increased sharply in Colombia especially in parts of the country outside government control.
Citing figures from the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), the Norwegian Refugee Council said last month that more than 2.6 million people have had their freedom of movement restricted so far this year because of ongoing violence across the country. country.
As part of Petro’s peace plan, Colombia recently resumed negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest remaining rebel group.
Over the weekend, the president announced that talks, held in neighboring Venezuela, had reached a deal to allow Embera’s indigenous people to return to their homelands.
Members of the community had fled violence between drug gangs, outlawed right-wing armed groups and the ELN. Many have taken shelter in the capital Bogota, where they staged protests demanding protection, housing and jobs.
On Wednesday, Petro’s government will also begin peace efforts in Buenaventura, a Pacific port city believed to have about 1,600 armed youths involved in drug trafficking.