New York [USA], Sept. 11 : Marxist rebels in Colombia have released around 13 child soldiers as part of a potential peace deal with the ruling government.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army or the FARC rebels freed 13 minors from their ranks as part of a deal that could see the end of the 52-year civil war that has claimed 220,000 lives, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which received the youths, reports CNN.
The ICRC already turned over eight of the children to UNICEF Colombia, which said they were in good health.
"The girls and boys were received in establishments suitable for the process of reestablishment of their rights so that they are able to develop in the best conditions possible," said the ICRC, adding the five remaining minors will also be handed over to UNICEF Colombia.
Neither UNICEF nor the ICRC identified the children, saying that"discretion is key to the success of such missions," which are expected to continue under a treaty between FARC and the Colombian Government.
For decades, the rebels have forced children to become soldiers, training them as guerrillas to lay mines and fight.
The release of these children follows Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' announcement last month that he will sign a historic peace deal with the rebels on September 26 in the colonial city of Cartagena.
The signing comes ahead of an October 2 referendum vote that will allow the nation to decide whether to accept the agreement reached with the FARC after almost four years of negotiations in Havana, Cuba.
However, it is not for the first time there has been an attempt at a peace deal, with previous truces between the groups falling apart in 1990 and 2002.