Colombia takes big step to peace as rebels lay down guns

Colombia takes big step to peace as rebels lay down guns

Colombia takes big step to peace as rebels lay down guns

Colombians celebrated a historic achievement on Tuesday as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who have waged war against the country's government for the past half century finally surrendered their weapons.

United Nations monitors said on Monday they had "the entirety of the FARC's registered individual arms stored away", apart from some that were exempted for transitional security at demobilization camps until August 1.

Most of Colombia's homicides have no direct relationship to the guerrillas, and even before the peace deal violence related to the conflict had fallen to the lowest level in decades.

President Juan Manuel Santos and top leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were present for the act.

The former fighters are now due to make the transition into civilian life.

Army soldiers arrive to guard the Mariana Paez demobilization zone, one of many rural camps where FARC rebel fighters are making their transition to civilian life, one day ahead of an event with President Juan Manuel Santos in Buenavista, Colombia, Monday, June 26, 2017. Attempts by Bogota to negotiate a peace deal successfully ended in 2016, when a peace treaty was signed in November and then approved by the Colombian parliament in December. It drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.

The militant rebel group has been involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency.

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The settlement, named for a prominent female ideologue killed in combat in 2009, is located high up on lush green mountains that have always been a FARC stronghold and was witness to some of the conflict's worst atrocities. The only exclusions from the list are the weapons used to provide security in the 26 FARC-EP camps until 1 August 2017.

The ELN started talks with the government in February, but has been blamed for ongoing confrontations with state forces.

Some of them will get amnesty or reduced sentences for crimes committed during the conflict.

The ELN kidnapped two Dutch journalists on June 19 and freed them five days later. The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims.

Colombia's civil conflict erupted in 1964 over land rights.

The accord eventually failed, paving the way for a decadelong bloodletting in which as many as 3,000 members of a FARC-aligned political party were gunned down.

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