Colombian forensic experts started on Monday to unearth what is believed to be world’s largest urban mass grave in the slums of western Medellin, a site many Colombians know as Comuna 13.
The team of experts have started to remove 20,000 tonnes of debris from La Escombrera on the outskirts of Medellin in order to reach the remains of more than 300 people who were supposedly killed and buried there during the 51-year-long Colombian civil war.
The families who have been searching for their loved ones were present at the beginning of excavation. They conducted a burial ceremony before the digging began.
Colombia’s Minister of the Interior Fernando Cristo said, “the ceremony was moving and a commitment to peace and reconciliation."
When people began to search for their disappeared relatives with the civil war beginning to die down, the Colombian government launched an investigation to locate the lost people.
Several incarcerated paramilitary warlords have told state prosecutors during criminal trials that they buried bodies in the Comuna 13 slum in 2002.
The Colombian government and rebel guerilla groups - most notably The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) - have been engaged in an armed struggle since the early 1960s.
Composed of Marxist rebels, the 8,000 member-strong FARC and the Colombian government have been in peace talks since November 2012 in order to put a stop to a 51-year civil war in the country which has caused 200,000 deaths.
Following an announcement by the FARC on July 8 that it had agreed to implement a one-month unilateral ceasefire, the Colombian government on July 12 agreed to reduce its attacks against the rebels for the first time since the initiation of the peace talks.
Colombia’s President Santos has said that if the guerillas do not stick to the truce, the peace process will end for good.
The Colombian government suspended bomb attacks against guerillas in March, but resumed after FARC breached its unilateral ceasefire by killing 10 soldiers.
The rebel group has requested a bilateral ceasefire, however Colombia’s government insists it will only agree to this if an agreement is signed between the parties.