January 18, 2018 / 1:55 AM / in 6 months

Colombia's FARC says two ex-fighters killed after campaigning

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Two former fighters from Colombia’s FARC rebels were killed in Antioquia province after campaigning for a political candidate for the now-demobilized guerrilla group, the FARC said in a statement on Wednesday.

Thousands of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels handed in their weapons under a peace deal signed with the government in 2016 to end more than 52 years of war. The group is now campaigning in legislative and presidential elections scheduled for this year.

“Wilmar Asprilla and Angel de Jesus Montoya were in the municipality conducting a community meeting and preparing a meeting to support the candidate for the house of representatives of Antioquia,” the FARC said in a statement.

Community members heard gunshots from a parking lot at around 11 p.m. local time on Tuesday (0400 GMT Wednesday) and when police arrived they found the two men dead, the statement added.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said the government was looking into the situation but had no further comment at this time.

The men are just two of 30 ex-fighters who have been killed by people hoping to destabilize the peace process, the group said. Six former fighters were killed in restive Narino province in October.

The United Nations verification mission in the country, which received thousands of weapons from the FARC when they demobilized, said in a statement on Wednesday that the free exercise of political rights must be guaranteed during campaigning.

Former rebels have repeatedly raised concerns that they may be assassinated by right-wing paramilitary gangs or drug traffickers, in a replay of about 5,000 targeted killings during the 1980s, when the group first attempted to found the Patriotic Union political party.

“We call upon the Colombian state and the relevant authorities to speak out about the systematic assassinations... and to take measures so that a political genocide like that of the Patriotic Union is not repeated,” the FARC statement said.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Diane Craft

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