Colombia gives protection to demobilized FARC

Bogota (AFP) –


Colombia announced plans Wednesday to protect demobilized members of the FARC rebel force, whose leaders say some of their ex-fighters have been murdered.

The 7,000 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have disarmed under a peace deal and are preparing to enter civilian and political life.

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the government would send thousands of troops to protect the 26 FARC demobilization zones across the country.

"The security of those who have demobilized is the public forces' priority," he told a news conference.

President Juan Manuel Santos declared Colombia's 50-year conflict with the FARC finally over on Tuesday, as the last truckloads of decommissioned weapons rolled away to be melted down.

The leftist rebel force has said it will officially transform into a political party on September 1 under the peace deal signed last year.

FARC leader Rodrigo Londono said on Twitter that 22 FARC members had been killed this year despite the peace deal.

FARC leaders and officials allege ongoing violence by gangs formed from remnants of former right-wing paramilitary groups.

Many Colombians said the peace deal was too lenient on the FARC, some of whose members will get amnesties for crimes committed in the conflict.

Colombia's last active rebel group, the National Liberation Army, is in peace talks with the government.

The FARC arose in May 1964 in a peasants' revolt demanding land reform.

As well as a quarter of a million dead, about 60,000 Colombians remain unaccounted for and seven million have been displaced in the conflict.

Government human rights official Paula Gaviria said overall 124 child soldiers had been discharged from by the FARC.