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FARC guerrillas number less than 8,000: Colombia

FARC guerrillas number less than 8,000: ColombiaBogota, March 13 - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that the Andean nation's largest guerrilla group, the FARC, now has fewer than 8,000 fighters.

"The number of people under arms in the FARC is 7,800," the president told reporters after a cabinet meeting, citing figures from military intelligence.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s.

As for the National Liberation Army, or ELN, Santos said it has fewer than 1,500 members, though it once had some 4,000 combatants.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said last December that the FARC, which once numbered as many as 20,000 fighters, no longer has more than 8,000.

Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC have been held in Havana since last November in hopes of reaching a negotiated end to the conflict, which has afflicted the Andean nation for more than half a century.

The two sides began their seventh round of talks Monday, facing the challenge of closing a deal on agrarian policy. (IANS)