ELN rebel killed in gunfight with Colombian army 10 days ahead of peace talks

LA SALINA, Colombia, Oct. 18 (UPI) — The Colombian Army said it killed one National Liberation Army, or ELN, rebel and arrested four others in the Casanare province 10 days ahead of the start of peace negotiation with the government.

The incident occurred Monday in the La Salina municipality after authorities received information armed ELN rebels were seen wearing army uniforms. A gunfight occurred.

“With majestic infiltration by Colombian army soldiers, an important result was obtained against ELN terrorists,” the Colombian Army said in a statement. “In the scene, the soldiers found war materials, explosives, communications and quartermaster devices with information of interest to state security agencies.”

Two minors who were with ELN members were also taken by authorities to a Colombian agency that deals with underage rebels, many of whom have been kidnapped.

Though the ELN and the Colombian government are scheduled to meet Oct. 27 in Ecuador to begin formal peace negotiations, neither side has suggested initiating a cease-fire beforehand.

There are an estimated 2,500 ELN rebels living mostly in Colombia’s rural, mountainous areas. The ELN and the administration of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos previously suspended peace talks over the issue of kidnappings and hostages.

The ELN, like the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, began as a Marxist-inspired insurgency in the 1960s. It was never as large or as powerful as the FARC, but like the FARC, its members engaged in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and other illegal activity to fund their campaign against the government.

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