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Rebel leader orders ceasefire in Colombia

REBEL LEADER ORDERS CEASEFIRE IN COLOMBIA

From Sunday, October 1, and extending until January 9, 2018, Colombia's ELN guerrilla group will observe a bilateral ceasefire with the government.

The commander in chief of the National Liberation Army (ELN rebels) Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias Gabino, ordered his men via a declaration on his YouTube channel Friday, "to halt all offensive activities to comply precisely with the bilateral ceasefire which has been agreed between the national government and the ELN."

All 70 divisions of the ELN will no longer carry out any military actions against the Colombian Army, the Police or any oil pipelines and infrastructure. The ELN-which was formed in 1964 - is believed to consist of around 2,500 men and is the country's remaining guerrilla group since the larger FARC rebels signed a peace agreement in November 2016.

"I have no doubt in their loyalty to see through this agreement to the very end," said Gabino of his men.

The peace dialogues between the ELN and the Colombian government began on February 2, 2017 in Quito, Ecuador and talk of a bilateral ceasefire was moved up the negotiating agenda to coincide with the Pope's visit to the Colombia in September.

In his speech, Gabino said, "Since the dialogues began we have insisted upon the urgency to reach a bilateral ceasefire because this not only stops attacks by both sides but also permits humanitarian aid in reaching the Colombians who are located in conflict zones."

He added that an agreement of this type needs to be made public, "to reaffirm the ELN's commitment, which makes up part of the group's revolutionary ethics, to fully complying to anything they give their word to."

On Friday morning the Colombian commissioner for peace, Rodrigo Rivera, had indicated that the protocols with which to put a bilateral ceasefire into action had been prepared.

"We finished negotiating the protocols in the early morning and in the coming hours the chief of the government's negotiating team will release a statement showing the outlines of this important decision and the guarantee that on Sunday the ceasefire will begin," said Rivera.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on his Twitter account Friday that this, "is a very important step, a step which I hope will be the first within a process which will lead the ELN to put down their weapons, just as happened with the FARC."

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