Colombia's FARC rebels say unilateral ceasefire may be at risk

Colombia's Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas delivers a speech during a news conference in Bogota, Colombia October 26, 2015. REUTERS/John Vizcaino

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebel group said its 3-month-old unilateral ceasefire, declared amid peace talks with the government to end 51 years of war, may be at risk because of a rise in military actions against its fighters.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who have been negotiating with the government for three years, said in a statement that continued military operations like one last week that killed four rebels threaten to make the unilateral ceasefire unsustainable.

The current ceasefire is one of several the FARC have declared during the course of the talks. A five-month halt to rebel actions ended in April when the FARC killed 11 soldiers in the rural western province of Cauca.

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said late on Saturday that though the FARC have halted attacks on military troops since the ceasefire began on July 20, they have not stopped assaults on the civilian population.

"The FARC have complied in an acceptable manner with the ceasefire, but they have not fulfilled the end of hostilities against the civilian population," Villegas said. "They continue extorting, illegal mining activities, sowing landmines."

The government has suspended an aerial bombing campaign against rebel camps as a gesture of goodwill in response to the FARC's ceasefire.

In its statement, the FARC requested a meeting with representatives from Cuba, Norway, Chile and Venezuela, which are guarantor and observer countries at the talks.

The two sides, negotiating in Cuba since late 2012, have promised to reach a final peace accord by the March 23, 2016. President Juan Manuel Santos said this week that a bilateral ceasefire could be declared in December.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Tom Heneghan)