Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday ordered the resumption of air strikes against the FARC after rebels killed 10 soldiers in an attack, breaching the organization’s unilateral ceasefire it had called for the duration of peace talks.
The suspension of air strikes came into force little more than a month ago in response to the FARC’s announcement in December to unilaterally cease fire and only use violence in the case of a military attack on one of its units.
Both measures were attempts to de-escalate the conflict while representatives of both the FARC and the government met in Havana, Cuba, to negotiate an end to the country’s 50 year-long war between left-wing rebel groups like the FARC and ELN, and the state.
However, around midnight, guerrillas belonging to the FARC’s Miller Perdomo fighters unit attacked an army patrol in the southwestern Cauca province, killing nine enlisted men and a non-commissioned officer while injuring 17.
Following the attack, Santos flew to the city of Cali to meet with local military commanders about the circumstances surrounding the major military blow.
Rebel negotiators in Cuba neither accepted nor denied responsibility for the attack, saying they regretted the death of the soldiers.
The FARC have consistently called on the government to approve a bilateral ceasefire for the duration of the talks.
FARC commander and negotiator “Pastor Alape” repeated this call, identifying the government’s “incoherence” as being to blame for the attack.
“Whether it was an attack, a counter attack, an ambush, what matters is that Colombians were killed, this is what needs to stop,” Alape said.
Santos responded angrily saying he “will not be pressured by scandalous acts like this to take a decision about a bilateral ceasefire.”
The peace talks began in November 2012 and have so far resulted in partial deals on rural reform, political participation and drug trafficking.
The negotiations are currently dealing with victims, of which 7 million were generated in the decades of conflict, and a bilateral ceasefire that would precede an eventual final end to the armed conflict.