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Colombian rebel group announces it will stop kidnapping people for ransom

The Colombian rebel group EMC, or Central General Command, has announced it will stop kidnapping people for ransom money as part of peace negotiations with the government.

A Colombian rebel group known for kidnapping people for ransom money has announced it will stop the practice as part of peace negotiations with the government. 

Central General Command, or EMC Group, a splinter rebel group that broke away from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after it disarmed in 2017 following a peace deal, made the move on Tuesday, and it is seen as a victory for Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who aims to achieve "total peace" in Colombia, according to the BBC.

Ransom kidnappings have been on the rise in Colombia this year and the abduction of Manuel Díaz, the father of Liverpool soccer player Luis Díaz, brought international attention to the practice. Liverpool plays in England's Premier League.


Manuel Díaz was kidnapped on Oct. 28 by the National Liberation Army (ELN), a different rebel group, and held hostage for 12 days before being released. ELN, however, has vowed not to stop its kidnappings.

Tuesday’s announcement was the first major gain reached from ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and EMC with both parties signing a statement that promised an end to "the practice of retention for economic purposes," according to AFP. Peace talks with the EMC restarted in mid-November after the group briefly walked away from the discussions.


The BBC reports that 91 people were still being held hostage across the country this week.

On Sunday, the body of a U.S. activist and comedian was found with over a dozen stab wounds and dumped in a ravine after he was allegedly kidnapped and held for ransom in Colombia. It is unclear if his killing was carried out by any rebel group. 

The EMC is the most influential group of FARC rebels who refused a peace deal the insurgency signed with the government in 2016, according to AFP. A shaky cease-fire reached in January remains in effect, despite multiple violations that have at times threatened to derail peace talks.

The EMC currently has some 3,530 members - 2,180 combatants and 1,350 others - in regions across Colombia where illicit trades like drug trafficking and illegal gold mining occur, according to Reuters security sources.

The Colombian conflict, which dates back to 1964, has killed at least 450,000 people and displaced millions. It is a low-intensity, asymmetric warfare, between the security forces, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.

Petro took office in 2020 and has sought to defuse the conflict.

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