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Colombian soldiers clown around in roving circus

The amateur trapeze artist on the not very high wire juggles while trying to keep his balance, but fails and falls. A crowd of hundreds of villagers claps anyway. After all, he is just a soldier -- part of a roving Colombian circus made up of military personnel. The circus is part of efforts to ease local fears about Colombian armed forces after decades of conflict -- a brutal civil war with leftist rebels that has lasted half a century and left thousands dead.

Philippine peace prospects dim after arrest of rebel couple

Prospects of reviving peace talks with Philippine communist insurgents have faded following the arrest of a married couple who are senior rebel leaders, officials and analysts said Sunday. The armed forces have hailed the arrest on Saturday of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the party's secretary general Wilma Tiamzon, as a victory. Military chief General Emmanuel Bautista said Benito Tiamzon heads both the party and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

Colombia should stop Bogota mayor's ouster: rights commission

By Luis Jaime Acosta and Peter Murphy BOGOTA (Reuters) - The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has called on Colombia to suspend a decision to oust the mayor of its capital, putting pressure on President Juan Manuel Santos to intervene in the sensitive case just as his re-election campaign begins.

Colombia ELN rebels admit attack on leftist candidate, apologize

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The National Liberation Army, Colombia's second-biggest guerrilla group, admitted on Thursday it was behind an attack last weekend on a leftist presidential candidate but said it was returning fire after being shot at first. A convoy carrying Aida Avella, 65, a contender from the Patriotic Union party, came under fire on Sunday as it traveled on a dirt road in the cattle-ranching and oil-rich northeastern province of Arauca, where rebels of the ELN have a strong presence.

Colombia rebels apologize for shooting at presidential hopeful's motorcade

Bogota, Feb 27 (EFE).- The smaller of Colombia's two main guerrilla groups apologized on Thursday for an attack last weekend on the motorcade of Aida Avella, presidential candidate of the leftist Union Patriotica. No one was hurt in the shooting. "We deeply regret this incident and we apologize for it to candidate Aida Avella, at the same time that we will take the necessary measures so that such deeds do not occur again," the National Liberation Army, or ELN, said in a communique.

Attack on Colombia candidate highlights risks to left

By Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta BOGOTA (Reuters) - Through the noise and dust churned up by her armored car, leftist presidential candidate Aida Avella assumed the popping noise was a rock hitting the wheel. When her bodyguards lost radio contact with the rest of her security detail travelling behind, she knew something was wrong. Avella's convoy was under armed attack.

Two Colombia oil sector workers freed after kidnapping

Two oil sector workers have been freed in northeast Colombia, a day after they were kidnapped at gunpoint, authorities said Tuesday. A female engineer at SICIM, a contractor for the company in charge of the Bicentenario pipeline, and her driver were nabbed Sunday by armed men on motorbikes in the Arauca department that borders Venezuela, a police source told AFP. Freed late Monday, both have returned to work.

FARC rebels kill five police in Colombia ambush

Colombia's leftist FARC rebels killed five police officers and injured three others Monday in an ambush in the north of the country, authorities said. The rebels targeted an anti-narcotics patrol working on coca eradication in Antioquia province, Colonel Fernando Restrepo told AFP. "This was an intense attack against the units," Restrepo said. The wounded were taken to area hospitals for treatment. Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon called the attack an "inexplicable act of barbarity."

Nearly five tons of pot seized from FARC amid drug talks

Nearly five tons of marijuana held by Colombia's FARC rebels was seized, authorities said Tuesday, as ongoing negotiations between the guerillas and government are currently focused on illegal drugs. A total of 4,976 kilos of marijuana were seized from rural drug storage facilities in the central department of Meta, during an operation on Sunday, the the Anti-narcotics Police Directorate said. The operation also found and destroyed 4.9 hectares (12 acres) of marijuana.

Colombian negotiators reach Cuba for peace talks with rebels

Negotiators for the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in communist Cuba Sunday to resume peace talks with their country's leftist rebels. The team, led by former vice president Humberto de la Calle, is scheduled to sit down with representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for talks starting Monday following an 11-day recess. De la Calle did not talk to reporters upon arrival.
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