Colombian ex-rebels leave danger zone following murders

2 min

Medellín (Colombia) (AFP)

More than 100 Colombian former left-wing guerrillas and their family members have left an area designated for them following the murder of 12 fellow ex-rebels elsewhere in the country, the FARC said Friday.

A historic peace deal signed with then-president Juan Manuel Santos in December 2016 saw thousands of FARC rebels lay down their arms, and many signed up for a reinsertion program in Ituango, a town in Colombia's northwestern Antioquia department.

But in addition to a rash of violence throughout the country against the former guerrillas, resulting most recently in the 12 killed, many others have received threats.

"It's been decided that 62 (ex-fighters) and 45 family members, including children, will leave the territory to continue their reinsertion... in peace," said FARC's Medellin representative Jesus Arenas.

The Antioquia department is rife with armed criminal groups including drug-traffickers, paramilitaries and dissident rebels who refused to give up their fight after the peace accord.

In the last few months, another 60 ex-fighters have left the Ituango reinsertion territory for the departmental capital, Medellin, where they live in "very precarious conditions," said Arenas.

The latest exodus leaves only around 20 former rebels living in Ituango.

Arenas said the group was looking for "new land in other" areas to settle in.

If they can't find somewhere to settle in the next two months, Arenas said the group would have to be taken to a refugee camp.

The 2016 peace accord, which resulted in 13,000 rebels laying down arms, ended a half-century of armed conflict and turned the FARC from marxist guerrillas into a far-left political party.

Last year was a particularly deadly one for ex-FARC rebels with 77 murdered, according to the United Nations. A total of 173 ex-rebels have been killed by armed groups since the peace deal was signed.

Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace, Emilio Archila, said the government had always acknowledged the Ituango territory has "security problems" and wasn't a suitable home for the ex-rebels.