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Colombia captures ELN rebel chief

Update: July, 14/2017 - 13:30

BOGOTA — Colombian authorities have captured a military leader of the ELN, the only rebel group left operating in the country after a peace deal struck with the bigger FARC, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said on Thursday.

The guerrilla commander, who went by the nom de guerre Mateo, had been trying to revive guerrilla operations in the central province of Tolima, Villegas told reporters.

Police and soldiers arrested him on charges of attempted murder, possessing weapons and fleeing justice, the prosecution service said in a statement. Mateo was said to have been active in the ELN, which stands for National Liberation Army, for 12 years.

Colombia’s government and the ELN are following the path set by the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, by negotiating a peace deal that aims to disarm and demobilize the insurgents.

The chief negotiator for the rebels, Pablo Beltran, said last week that a bilateral ceasefire is near.

The ELN is thought to have around 1,500 fighters, whereas the FARC has 10,000 in its ranks.

The UN Security Council this week agreed to launch a new mission in Colombia to help FARC fighters reintegrate into society.

President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for reaching the historic deal with the FARC last November, ending more than 50 years of conflict that left 260,000 people dead. —AFP

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