Havana (AFP) - Colombia's FARC rebels admitted Monday to killing a black community leader in the country's southwest in early August, a crime they had strongly condemned.
After initially rejecting any link to the August 3 shooting of Genaro Garcia, an activist for those forced to flee their homes by Colombia's five-decade conflict, FARC leaders acknowledged one of their units killed him.
"After carrying out internal investigations on the case, we have concluded that units attached to the (FARC's) Daniel Aldana mobile column were in fact implicated in committing this reprehensible act," rebel commander Pablo Catatumbo told a news conference in Havana, where the FARC is in peace talks with the government.
Garcia was the president of the community council in the rural town of Alto Mira, located in a predominately black area of Colombia. He was also a human rights activist and advocate for those uprooted by the conflict.
Human Rights Watch has accused the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia of targeting Afro-Colombians in the region.
Garcia had been under government protection after receiving repeated threats, but was gunned down in the town of Tumaco.
The FARC initially denied any involvement, calling his killing a "deplorable act."
Catatumbo said the leftist guerrilla group would punish all commanders and fighters involved.
A member of the government delegation to the peace talks praised the FARC's admission as "brave," speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Colombian conflict has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than six million since the FARC launched its Marxist rebellion in 1964.
The United Nations said last week that 69 community leaders and human rights activists have been killed in Colombia this year, more than double during the same period last year -- a statistic it called "alarming."
The peace talks in the Cuban capital, which opened in November 2012, have reached partial deals on several issues, but a definitive peace accord remains elusive.