Colombia faces questions over whereabouts of former FARC rebel leader

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-29 11:35:35|Editor: Liangyu
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BOGOTA, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Questions over the whereabouts of a former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel leader have led to the belief that he may have abandoned the peace deal struck with the Colombian government, media reported Saturday.

However, top FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, who now serves as president of the guerrilla group-turned-political party, dismissed the rumors, saying Hernan Dario Velasquez, also known as "El Paisa," had simply left a specially-designated transition and reintegration zone (ETCR) due to concerns over his safety.

"Ignore disinformation. El Paisa is still a militant of peace," Londono tweeted, suggesting the allegations that Velasquez was disenchanted with the peace process could be part of an effort to undermine the peace deal.

In November 2016, the government and the FARC signed an agreement to put an end to some five decades of fighting between the leftist rebels and state forces.

The agreement was approved by the Colombian Congress the following December. As part of the peace deal, the FARC renounced violence and founded a political party to work within the system for change.

Following the signing of the peace agreement, most of the guerrillas exited their jungle hideouts, laid down their weapons and joined a process of transition to civilian life.

Velasquez' exit from the transition zone in Miravalle in Colombia's southern department of Caqueta "has caused a sharp clash between the army and the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace," national television network Caracol said on its website.

The high commissioner's office said it was aware of Velasquez' departure from the zone, while "military intelligence sources believe ... he has withdrawn from the process," according to the network.

On Friday, Caracol reported that a local mayor said the former rebel left because the government failed to live up to its commitments under the peace deal, and a group of rebels went with him.

Velasquez headed the FARC's "feared" Teofilo Forero column, suspected of carrying out one of the worst guerrilla attacks in Colombia's history, the bombing of Bogota's exclusive El Nogal Club in 2003, which left 36 people dead and at least 160 injured.