December 23, 2014 / 9:44 PM / in 3 years

Colombia army launches search for soldier kidnapped by rebels

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's army has launched a search operation for a soldier kidnapped during an ambush by leftist FARC rebels last week in which five of his colleagues were killed, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, killed five soldiers in the southwestern province of Cauca as they patrolled a road the rebels had damaged with a bomb shortly before.

The attack came just hours before the group began an unlimited ceasefire at midnight on Friday.

"In accordance with the directives of the National Army Command, all actions necessary to locate the soldier have been deployed and will continue until his freedom is reached," an army statement said, naming the soldier as Carlos Becerra Ojeda.

The FARC's ceasefire comes as the group advances in peace negotiations launched by President Juan Manuel Santos in late 2012 and some analysts see it as a sign of progress toward the signing of a definitive peace deal.

The sides have reached a partial agreement on land reform, the FARC's future participation in politics and how to end the drugs trade. The tricky points of victim compensation and how to bring the armed conflict to an end, have yet to be agreed on.

The FARC was formed in 1964, mushrooming out of a peasant movement demanding land reform and has fought successive governments in a mainly rural conflict that has killed more than 220,000 and uprooted millions from their homes.

Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Ken Wills

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