Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

  • Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

Colombian rebels have handed over almost all weapons

Colombia's leftist FARC rebel force declared its disarmament complete on Tuesday after half a century of war against the state, bringing Latin America's oldest civil conflict close to an end.

The UN said 7,132 arms have been stored in secure containers and a small number of weapons will remain in the hands of some rebels for security provision at the camps until they are closed on August 1.

The move, part of a 2016 peace deal, is a key part of efforts to end the long territorial and ideological conflict.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed. On Tuesday, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARCs top commander Timochenko will meet in this area, at one of many rural camps where rebel fighters are making their transition to civilian life, to commemorate the completion of FARC disarmament process.

"To date, the Mission has verified 77 arms caches from which weapons have been extracted and munitions, explosives and unstable armaments destroyed", the United Nations political mission said.

"The laying down of arms is an act of will, courage and hope", he wrote on Twitter.

Many Colombians are concerned that if there is any delay, these weapons could fall into the hand of criminals, paramilitaries or the ELN, Colombia's second-largest left-wing rebel group. Nonetheless both the FARC and the government say they are making steady progress as the rebels transition to civilian life.

'Today doesn't end the existence of the FARC, it ends our armed struggle, ' said Rodrigo Londono, the FARC's top commander, who goes by his nom de guerre Timochenko.

The FARC has pledged to use its assets to compensate victims.

The accord, first signed in November, was initially narrowly rejected by Colombians in a referendum before being redrafted and pushed through congress. However, critics such as conservative political leader Alvaro Uribe said that the peace accord was too lenient on FARC members.

The FARC and the government have promised to stamp out the drug production that has fueled the conflict.

The conflict drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.

It has left 260,000 people confirmed dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.

Santos signed an initial peace accord with the FARC on September 26 in an elaborate ceremony attended by several heads of state, but voters rejected the deal a week later in a referendum by a razor-thin margin.

The ELN started talks with the government this year, though it has been blamed for ongoing confrontations with state forces.

The monitors said they had also found and emptied 77 out of the Farc's 900 arms caches hidden around the countryside.