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Colombia’s FARC dissidents take UN official hostage

UN observers arrive at a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in La Carmelita near Puerto Asis, in Colombia's southwestern state of Putumayo, on March 1, 2017. (Photo by AP)

A United Nations official working in Colombia to help with plans for substituting illegal crops has been taken hostage by dissident former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The UN, police and military sources said on Thursday that Arley Lopez, a Colombian, was seized a day earlier by gunmen close to the town of Miraflores in southern province of Guaviare.

The kidnappers have been identified as dissident former FARC rebels, who have rejected a peace process with the government. The sources said Lopez was stopped by armed men in a convoy of vehicles.

The area where Lopez was captured is a prime location for cultivation of coca, the raw material for production of cocaine. FARC dissidents, who have refused to accept a peace deal reached last year, still use the territory to fund their battle against the government.

The abduction comes as representatives from the UN Security Council are in Colombia to discuss the accord, which was sealed to end more than five decades of conflict in the Andean nation.

The photo released by the press office of the Foreign Ministry of Colombia on May 3, 2017 shows Colombia's Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs Francisco Echeverri Lara (C) greeting Uruguay's Ambassador to the UN Elbio Rosselli as part of a UN Security Council delegation. (Photo by AFP)

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Around 7,000 FARC members have agreed to the peace process and are gradually laying down their arms. Several hundred have, however, formed a new criminal gang and continue the lucrative drug trafficking business. The dissidents have been expelled by the FARC leadership.

The FARC peace initiative has faced criticism from many Colombians, including the opposition.

Former president Alvaro Uribe, a major opponent of the deal, has blamed the government for the continued kidnapping and drug trafficking in the country, saying officials have not done enough to stop FARC dissidents and other criminals from filling the void and taking over the drug business.

FARC lived for decades on drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion to finance its battle against the Colombian government.

As part of the peace deal, Colombia is seeking to switch coca to legal crops. 

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