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Colombia's Santos orders resumption of talks with ELN rebels

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Bogota (AFP)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday ordered government negotiators to resume talks with the South American country's last active rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).

"I have instructed the head of the negotiating team, Gustavo Bell, to travel to Quito and reactivate the dialogue," the president said.

Santos suspended long-running peace talks with the ELN in the Ecuadoran capital in late January following a series of attacks on police stations that left six people dead and dozens more wounded.

Those attacks occurred after a bilateral ceasefire had expired on January 9, during a break in the talks.

Santos' announcement came in response to a unilateral ceasefire by the ELN for Sunday's legislative elections, seen as a test of the group's willingness to get back to the negotiating table.

During the suspension of the talks, government forces had resumed operations against the ELN, killing 10 rebels last Tuesday in the group's biggest recent battlefield loss.

The ELN has about 1,500 fighters.

Colombia's biggest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), made peace with the government in 2016 and has since transformed into a political party that participated in Sunday's elections.

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