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Colombian government ends airstrikes against FARC rebels

The order comes two weeks after the Colombian government agreed to roll back military operations against the FARC if the rebels held to a unilateral cease-fire called earlier this month.

By Fred Lambert
Colombian government ends airstrikes against FARC rebels
Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2013. On July 26, 2015, Santos ordered an end to airstrikes against rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, following a previous pledge to de-escalate the 50-year-old war with the leftist rebels. File photo by Andrew Harrer/UPI/Pool | License Photo

CARTAGENA, Colombia, July 26 (UPI) -- The Colombian military will cease conducting airstrikes against camps belonging to FARC rebels, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ordered Sunday.

"I have issued the order to stop, as of today, bombing raids against camps where there are members of that group," the BBC quoted Santos as saying at a military event in Cartagena. "From now on, this type of bombing will only be done by explicit order of the president."

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The development comes amid three-year-old peace talks in Havana, Cuba, between the Bogota government and the leftist rebels.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, earlier this month announced a unilateral month-long cease-fire with the Colombian government in the hopes of attaining an eventual truce in the more than 50-year-old conflict.

In a joint-statement issued by both sides on July 12, the Colombian government agreed to roll back military operations against the FARC if the rebels held true to the cease-fire.

President Santos said the airstrike suspension would only apply to FARC encampments near cities and towns, and only those that did not pose a threat, the BBC reports.

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The de-escalation comes as Colombia's police and armed forces have reportedly clashed with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, another Marxist group operating in the country.

On June 14, the Colombian armed forces said it killed Jose Amin Hernandez Manrique, a high-level ELN commander known by the name "Marquitos," during an operation in the country's northwest.

On July 18 -- one day before the FARC's announcement of a cease-fire -- Colombia's National Police said it had arrested 15 people, including suspected members of the ELN, in connection with bombing attacks in Bogota last year.

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