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Colombia Paramilitary Group Will Lay Down Weapons

Colombia’s largest paramilitary group agreed to lay down weapons because of the government’s success in retaking control of wide swaths of land from leftist rebels, a leader of the banned group said. Speaking to The Associated Press late Wednesday from a straw-thatched house in a small village of northwest Colombia, Salvatore Mancuso of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia praised hard-line President Alvaro Uribe for cracking down on rebels. Mr. Mancuso’s paramilitary group arose in the 1980s to counter extortion and kidnappings by rebels in areas where government troops had little or no control. The right-wing group is accused of some of the worst human rights abuses in the history of Colombia’s 39-year civil war – including massacring civilians it believed to be rebel collaborators. “Before, the government didn’t have the political will to defend institutions and Colombians,” said Mr. Mancuso, who helped draft the document that launched official peace talks with the government on Tuesday. Full Story

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