Colombia’s EMC rebel group has announced it will stop kidnapping people for ransom.
The EMC is the largest offshoot of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and is made up of rebels who refused to lay down their arms when the Farc signed a peace deal in 2016.
The announcement is a boost for the government of Gustavo Petro, which is engaged in peace talks with the EMC.
Ransom kidnappings have been on the rise in Colombia this year.
Among those seized – and later released – was the father of Liverpool footballer Luis Díaz.
The kidnapping of Mr Díaz Snr and his wife from their home town of Barrancas, in northern Colombia, shone a spotlight on the practice, which several criminal and rebel groups engage in to raise money.
While Tuesday’s announcement by the EMC is a victory for President Petro, who says he aims to achieve “total peace” in Colombia, kidnappings for ransom are likely to continue.
The National Liberation Army (ELN), the rebel group which seized Luis Díaz’s parents, is one of several criminal and rebel groups active in Colombia which have so far refused to stop abducting people for money.
The Ombudsman’s office said this week that 91 people were still being held hostage across the country.
According to a report released by Colombia’s Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, the number of people kidnapped in the first 10 months of this year was the highest since 2016 – the year when the government signed a peace deal with the Farc.
The EMC – full name Estado Mayor Central (Spanish for Central General Command) – is the largest of the dissident rebel groups to have formed after the 2016 peace deal and has an estimated 3,000 members.
It is most active in the provinces of Caquetá, Guaviare, Meta and Putumayo.
Negotiations with the EMC have been rocky. In May, President Petro suspended a ceasefire with the rebel group after it had killed four indigenous teenagers who had tried to flee after being forcibly recruited by the group.
And it was not until last month that the two sides resumed peace talks.
Source : BBC