Nine suspected ELN guerrillas have been killed by the Colombian military in an
, the hardest blow to the group since peace talks began with President Gustavo Petro's government , AFP learned from an official source on Monday.
The operation, carried out by the Colombian navy, took place on Friday in a rural area of the municipality of Buenaventura (southwest), where
"during the fighting, nine suspected members of the ELN were killed"
, said to the press the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Helder Giraldo.
A Colombian soldier was injured during these clashes, and died of his wounds, according to the senior officer.
The National Liberation Army (of Guevarist inspiration), the last guerrilla formed as such still active in the country, has been negotiating since the end of 2022 with the left-wing government of President Petro.
These talks, which are taking place in neighboring Venezuela, experienced a serious hitch in early January with the premature announcement by Gustavo Petro on New Year's Eve of a bilateral ceasefire, shortly afterwards denied by the ELN, which considered the discussions "
Since then, military forces have killed a total of 10 ELN guerrillas (including the nine killed in this latest operation) and captured 21, according to the army chief.
“These operations will continue
,” he commented.
Government and guerrilla delegates are due to meet again in mid-February in Mexico for a new round of negotiations, with a bilateral truce on the agenda.
Gustavo Petro, who took office in August as the first left-wing president in Colombia's history, aims to achieve
with the multitude of armed groups operating in the country, very often involved in drug trafficking. .
Read alsoColombia: Gustavo Petro, the guerrilla president
project also concerns drug traffickers who will agree to surrender to justice in exchange for legal benefits.
Dissident groups from the FARC (a Marxist guerrilla that signed peace in 2016) and two other groups of drug traffickers and paramilitaries - the Clan del Golfo and the Autodefensas de la Sierra Nevada - have so far agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with the security forces.