Colombian FARC rebels extend unilateral ceasefire

FARC Commander Carlos Antonio Lozada reads a statement at the Convention Palace in Havana during peace talks with the Colombian government, on August 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil Lage)
Colombian rebels holding peace talks with the government have extended a unilateral ceasefire, one of their commanders said Thursday.
The commander, Carlos Antonio Lozada, one of the FARC guerrilla group\’s negotiators at the talks in Havana, did not specify how long the extension would last.
The goal of prolonging the ceasefire — first declared July 20 for one month — is to bolster the negotiations, which have been ongoing since November 2012, Lozada said.
The talks are aimed at ending Latin America\’s last insurgency, which started back in the 1960s with a peasant revolt over gaping economic inequality in Colombia.
Colombia\’s civil strife has killed more than 220,000 people and uprooted as many as six million.
"We confirm our decision to maintain the unilateral ceasefire," Lozada said.
However, he accused the government of continuing to attack FARC positions.
"We can\’t understand why this aggression continues against a guerrilla force that has declared a truce," he said.
"The most sensible thing for the government to do would be to stop trying to take advantage militarily of this humanitarian gesture by the insurgency."
The government delegation did not comment as the latest round of peace talks got under way.
The talks in the Cuban capital have reached preliminary deals on several key issues, including reining in the drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.
But they have yet to produce a final accord.
The rebels\’ latest unilateral ceasefire has been cautiously welcomed as a sign of progress. An earlier one unravelled last April after five months of relative calm when FARC fighters killed 11 soldiers in an ambush.
That was followed by a surge in fighting. But on July 12, the two sides announced a deal to de-escalate the violence.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is the country\’s largest guerrilla group, with an estimated 8,000 fighters.
Another rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), has an estimated 2,500 fighters.
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