Colombia’s largest Marxist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) unilaterally announced the suspension of ceasefire on Friday as a reaction to Colombian army’s military operation that killed 26 militants in a guerilla camp on Thursday.
The FARC’s move came after Colombian army’s air strike on the guerrilla camp in Cauca province on Thursday when 26 militants were killed, one of the deadliest confrontation between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group since the peace talks commenced in Cuba in late 2012.
“We deplore the joint attack of the air force, the army and the police carried out at dawn on Thursday against a camp of the 29 Front of the FARC in Guapi (Cauca), during which, according to official sources, 26 guerrilla combatants were killed,” the FARC said in a statement released on Friday.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos defied the FARC as he said his government and armed forces were ready for a renewed offensive against guerrilla warfare.
The insurgent FARC rebels have blamed Santos for "incoherence" as the Colombian army attacked guerilla targets while the negotiations were underway to achieve peace.
"The suspension of the unilateral ceasefire was not in our sights...but the incoherence of Santos' government has achieved it," the FARC statement said on their website.
"Dialogue will continue," rebel negotiator and member of the group's seven-member secretariat, Pablo Catatumbo, told reporters in the Cuban capital Havana.
"There is a tense atmosphere that has tarnished the talks these days," the statement added.
Before the FARC statement released, the Colombian president had urged the guerillas to accelerate the peace talks by ending "spiral of violence, hate and vengeance" in a televised address on Friday.
"The rebels will be thinking about retaliation," Santos said as he was standing with his military leadership in Bogota.
"What we have to do is stop; stop and transform it into a spiral of forgiveness and reconciliation." he added.
The president of Colombia also stated that the army had confiscated an important stockpile of weapons during the latest military raid, including 37 assault rifles and a M60 machine gun.
The Colombian government and the guerilla groups, most notably the FARC and the other National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels have been maintaining an armed struggle since the early 1960s.
The 50 years of struggle between Colombian army and the leftist guerrilla groups caused the death of at least 220,000 people as well as dislocations of hundreds of thousands inside Colombia.
The Marxist guerrilla groups have been aiming to establish a communist governance in Bogota, but the Colombian government had started a peace process with both rebel groups since the past two years onwards.
The FARC rebels had declared an armistice in December 2014 as they also invited the government forces to lay down arms against themselves.
Top-ranking officers from both FARC and ELN have convened recently in order to converge their peace process with the Colombian government in Havana.
Since the peace talks have been commenced, the FARC rebels have also been trying to convince the ELN rebels who were hesitant and mulling over whether to enter into the negotiations.
FARC commander in chief Rodrigo Londono, who is better known as "Timochenko," was said to have met with his ELN counterpart Nicolas Rodriguez, or "Gabino," in Havana in late April in order to convince him to agree to full-fledged peace negotiations, according to Colombian government sources.
Colombia’s both revolutionary groups have been weakened since a US-backed military onslaught made by Colombian army in 2000.
The estimated number of the FARC rebels in Colombia is about 8,000 while ELN has much fewer than those numbers.
Colombian President Santos had announced last year that the peace talks with the ELN will be parallel to that of the FARC during which the parties would negotiate political reform, redistribution of lands, ending the drugs trafficking and reparations for the families of victims of the long-lasting conflicts.
The Colombian president also subjected the peace talks to a nationwide referendum when they are completely finished with both rebel groups.