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Colombian rebel group ELN calls cease-fire due to coronavirus

Colombian army soldiers guard against rebel forces in Tibu, northern Santander, Colombia. The ELN rebel faction said the temporary truce will last through April 30. File Photo by Mauricio Duenas Castaneda/EPA-EFE
Colombian army soldiers guard against rebel forces in Tibu, northern Santander, Colombia. The ELN rebel faction said the temporary truce will last through April 30. File Photo by Mauricio Duenas Castaneda/EPA-EFE

March 30 (UPI) -- The rebel National Liberation Military group in Colombia has announced it will begin a month-long cease-fire on Wednesday, as a "humanitarian gesture" in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

The group, also known by the acronym ELN, said the temporary truce is a response to the United Nations' call for peace amid the pandemic.

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"The cessation is active because we reserve the right to defend ourselves against attacks by state forces, made up of regular troops, paramilitaries and drug gangs in various regions of the country," the group said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a cessation in fighting last week.

"To warring parties: Pull back from hostilities. Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes," he said. "This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to [the coronavirus]."

Norway, which has acted as a mediator in the past between the Colombia government and the ELN, welcomed the truce.

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A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

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