At least six people have been killed in fresh violent clashes between army soldiers and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group in the northeast of the country.
Colombian military authorities said on Thursday that the clashes took place in the oil-rich Arauca region near the border with Venezuela.
According to the statement, a junior officer and two soldiers tasked with protecting the oil fields were killed in the fierce fighting with the rebels.
The military noted that the three FARC rebels who died were wearing army uniforms and were preparing to mount an attack on oil facilities in the volatile region.
“According to our information, they were trying to prepare an attack against an oil complex,” the statement read.
The Arauca region is considered a traditional stronghold of FARC rebels and has been the scene of several clashes in recent months.
The developments come as government forces have intensified military operations against the FARC in recent days. More than three dozen FARC rebels have been killed during three military operations over the past several days.
Also on Thursday, Norwegian and Cuban mediators voiced concern about the peace process between the Colombian authorities and FARC rebels following an escalation in violence between the two sides.
Rodolfo Benitez from Cuba and Norwegian Dag Nylander, who are guarantors in the Colombian peace talks, read a statement in the Cuban capital city, Havana, voicing concern about the position of both countries in relation to the Colombian peace negotiations.
Both Cuba and Norway are acting as guarantors for the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels.
The observers maintain the affairs overshadowing the peace deal between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC are adversely impacting the talks.
Peace Talks between the negotiating sides resumed on Monday in the Cuban capital city Havana amid escalating tensions.
The peace talks had started in 2012, but have on different occasions been derailed by attacks from both sides. The talks have so far produced only partial accords on several issues, but have yet to yield a final deal to end a half-a-century-old conflict between the rebels and the government.
FARC is Latin America’s oldest rebel group and has been fighting the government since 1964.
The five-decade-long conflict in Colombia has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people while more than five million have been displaced.
The rebel group is thought to have around 8,000 fighters operating across a large swathe of the eastern jungles of the Andean country.