19 December 2014
Last updated at 22:57
Colombia’s military has been fighting the rebels for decades
Colombia’s Farc rebels have killed five soldiers in an ambush, the army says, hours before they are meant to start an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire.
The leftist rebels attacked a patrol before dawn in Santander de Quilichao, a rural area of western Colombia.
The truce, scheduled from Saturday, has been hailed as a major boost for talks aimed at ending a 50-year conflict that has claimed 220,000 lives.
However, Colombia’s government said it would not join the rebels in the truce.
President Juan Manuel Santos described Farc’s ceasefire declaration as a “gift… full of thorns”.
He has rejected rebel calls for a bilateral truce, warning that this would give the rebels the chance to re-arm.
The conflict has left some 220,000 people dead since it began in the 1960s
He also condemned the attack on Friday, saying the soldiers had died “defending the security of their fellow Colombians”, according to the AFP news agency.
At least five soldiers were injured in the ambush and one was reported missing.
Representatives of Colombia’s government and the Farc have been holding talks in the Cuban capital, Havana, for more than two years.
The talks were almost derailed in September after the Farc captured a Colombian general, Ruben Dario Alzate, prompting President Santos to suspend the negotiations.
The rebels released the general unharmed in November in an effort to revive the talks.
Earlier this week, they announced that they would observe a truce from Saturday, which should become a formal armistice – and would only end if they were attacked.
The Farc have declared ceasefires in the past, but these have been temporary. It has also staged similar attacks to the one on Friday, just before the commencing its ceasefires.