Six police officers have been killed by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the latest attack by the insurgency while peace talks aimed at ending the 50-year-old armed struggle try to get off the ground in Oslo, Norway, officials said Monday.
Since the preliminary discussions between the Colombian government and FARC representatives designed to set up the framework for more serious talks began on October 17, neither side has called a truce.
According to a police statement, the six officers, who were traveling in a convoy, were attacked over the weekend on the Pan American Highway in Cauca department near the border with Ecuador by FARC rebels.
"This isn't a guerrilla zone nor is it under any alert warnings for attacks," Víctor Meléndez, the ombudsman in Cauca told El PAÍS.
The FARC's so-called 6th Front, whose members launched the attack, is headed up by a rebel known as "Sergeant Pascuas," who was to be part of the original peace-negotiating team that is now meeting in Norway. But Pascuas, who is in Havana, reportedly could not travel to Oslo because of his advanced age.
The talks, which are being brokered by Cuba, Venezuela, Chile and Norway, are set to begin officially on November 15. European diplomats have called on the FARC to call a ceasefire while the talks progress.
Meanwhile, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said that since the talks began the government has continued to launch its own offensives against the FARC, killing some 50 members and capturing 60 others. Between 30 and 60 others have abandoned the insurgency since then, the defense minister said.
Colombian authorities say they still have rewards out for 10 FARC members, including Ninfa Judith Simanca Herrera, whose alias is "Victoria" and is described as a once-personal friend of the late insurgent leader "Alfonso Cano." She is thought to be the head of one of the commando units that operates in the center of the country, the Bogota daily El Tiempo reported on Tuesday. Cano was killed in November 2011 during an army attack.
According to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, 72 percent of Colombians favor the talks while 39 percent of those polled believe a peace treaty will be reached.