Colombia's Marxist FARC rebel group said on Wednesday it has handed in 30 percent of its weaponry to the United Nations, part of a peace deal signed with the government last year to end more than 52 years of war.
The government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas recently extended the deadline for the arms hand-over, after logistical delays slowed the arrival of some of the group's 7,000 fighters to special demobilization zones.
"Thirty percent of our arms are in the hands of the United Nations," FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, said on Twitter. "This is the effective start of our farewell to arms."
Another 30 percent of weaponry will be handed in on June 14 and the remaining 40 percent on June 20, the expiry date of the hand-over extension with the government, the FARC said.
Under the accord, rejected in a public referendum but pushed through by congress, the FARC will become a political party and most fighters will receive amnesty.
The FARC is the oldest and largest group among Colombia's left-wing rebels and is one of the world's richest guerrilla armies. The group was founded in 1964, when it declared its intention to overthrow the government and install a Marxist regime. According to the Colombian security forces, there are around 7,000 active militants within the guerilla group. It is estimated that more than 8,500 civilians have given support to the group. However, the number went down gradually, as the number of active militants in 2002 was 20,000. The group was accused by human rights groups of forcibly recruiting women and children, especially those under the age of 15. Their main target is the Colombian security forces as they have attacked police stations and military posts. As part of the reconciliation process, FARC rebels are set to begin disarming and demobilizing, the group reportedly surrendered a list of the 5,765 guerrillas to the Colombian military.