Colombia: Clashes kill 15 as the Government offers peace talks

During the battles between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary fighters two girls were killed
As the conservative President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, makes a new offer to discuss a cease-fire to the country's 40-year internal conflict, clashes between leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary fighters left 15 people dead, including two young girls.

According to police reports, the fighting Wednesday was among a cluster of homes in the hamlet of La Esmeralda, located in a jungle rural region of rolling hills rich in coca, the green bush used to make cocaine. The battle left 26 wounded, authorities said.

Twelve of those killed in the fighting between the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, were combatants, while an adult civilian seeking cover was killed along with the girls, the police chief said.

The battle came shortly before Uribe's government said it had made a new offer to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is the country's largest rebel group, to hold talks about an exchange of prisoners. Even further, authorities said they could hold talks with the rebels in a southern district of the country, promising that the army would not carry out any military operations in the Pradera municipality at the time.

The deal could see the end of the captivity for at least 60 FARC hostages and a non determined number of imprisoned rebels. Former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US intelligence operatives are among those being held by the FARC.

Analysts believe that the offer would not be accepted by the rebels, who have recently launched a series of attacks to army units. They demand the demilitarization of two complete municipalities before talks could start.

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Author`s name Olga Savka