By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia — The Colombian military conducted strikes against FARC rebels on Monday, the same day peace talks resumed between government and rebel representatives in Cuba. The Colombian air force bombed rebel positions near Riosucio in the Choco province.
The strikes reportedly killed FARC commander Alfredo Alarcon Machado, known as Ramon Ruiz, who led the 18th division operating out of north-west Colombia.
The strikes yesterday were the latest in the new wave of fighting between government forces and rebels since fighting resumed in April.
26 FARC rebels were also killed on Thursday May 21 in a military operation against rebels in Southwestern Colombia. The operation was reportedly part of an ongoing offensive against illegal drug and mining activities in the area.
Following the attack, the FARC suspended their unilateral ceasefire.
In December 2014, the FARC declared a unilateral ceasefire as a show of good faith in the peace talks. The Colombian military did not call a ceasefire, citing previous incidences where the rebels had used ceasefires as a way to regroup and re-arm, but did discontinue its bombing campaigns against rebel forces.
Colombian military forces resumed the bombing campaign against the rebels after April 15, when FARC rebels ambushed and killed 11 Colombian soldiers in Cauca. Following the ambush, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the military to resume bombing.
Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez is opening an investigation into the ambush, following an investigation by the NGO, Broad Front for Peace. The NGO reported eyewitness accounts which differed with the military’s version of the incident, but also with other eyewitness attacks.
Ordoñez will look into whether there was a failure to follow protocol, and whether details of the attack specifically regarding weapons used was concealed from the forensic investigation.
There is concern that the latest incidences between the government and the FARC will set back the peace talks in Cuba. Despite ending the ceasefire, the FARC has said that it remains committed to the peace process. President Santos has called on the FARC to step up the pace on the peace talks.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC were officially initiated back in November 2012. The two sides have come to minor agreements since then, including pledges to eliminate illegal drug trafficking, and to work together to remove landmines.
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