World Bulletin / News Desk
After a half-century of armed struggle, the Colombian armed forces and the country's last guerrilla group, the ELN, began on Sunday a historic, if possibly temporary, truce.
The truce is the most important achievement yet from peace talks carried out since February by negotiators for the rebels and the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos in neighboring Ecuador, aimed at ending the longest armed conflict in the Americas.
"Starting at this moment, and as our Commander Nicolas Rodriguez said, the ELN will fully implement the bilateral ceasefire," the rebel group wrote on Twitter just after midnight Saturday.
Rodriguez earlier ordered his troops to "cease all types of offensive activities to fully comply with the bilateral ceasefire" starting at 0501 GMT Sunday.
The Colombian armed forces were also ordered to suspend operations against the guerrillas at the same time.
President Santos said he hoped the truce could serve as a "first step to achieving peace" with the rebel group.
The government last year reached a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, the oldest and most powerful guerrilla force in the region, that led to the group surrendering its weapons.
The runup to the truce, however, has been bloody, as ELN rebels attacked security forces and a major oil pipeline, leaving one soldier dead and causing oil spills in rivers near Venezuela.
On Saturday, just hours before the truce came into effect, government forces announced that they had killed an ELN commander in northeastern Colombia known as "Carro Loco" ("Mad Car") in a commando raid.
Separately, three police officers were killed in an ambush, while one of the presumed shooters was killed, in southwestern Colombia. The government initially blamed dissident FARC guerrillas, but ELN rebels are also active in the region.
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