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Colombian rebels: Peace talks to start Oct. 15

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Talks between Colombia’s government and the leftist FARC rebels — aimed at ending one of Latin America’s oldest conflicts — are set to begin on October 15, the group said.

The statement sent to reporters in Havana, Cuba, where the parties met to negotiate the terms of the peace talks also said “the national government and the FARC … will make a public announcement on October 17 in the city of Oslo, Norway.”

An earlier announcement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia had said the negotiations were to begin in Oslo on October 8, before continuing in Havana.

The emailed statement was accompanied by an open letter from the FARC to one of its commanders, Simon Trinidad, serving a 60-year sentence in the US for kidnapping three Americans, whom the FARC listed as one of the negotiators for the Oslo talks.

The letter said they included Trinidad as a FARC team member for the dialogue as a point of “pride of the fighters for people’s rights.”

“The forms of realizing your contribution to this project will be discussed during talks,” the letter noted, adding that achieving peace would require “resolving the causes of the war.”

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The letter, signed Monday by the Central Staff of FARC in the mountains of Colombia, alleged that Trinidad was unfairly imprisoned for his FARC activities, which they characterized as “defending the rights of the dispossessed.”

This month’s peace talks are the first attempt in a decade to achieve a negotiated to end the conflict that began when the guerrilla group was founded in 1964. Three earlier attempts failed.

The last round of peace talks, held in 2002, collapsed when the Colombian government concluded that the guerrillas were regrouping in a Switzerland-sized demilitarized zone it created to help reach a peace deal.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

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New Zealand opened a gun buyback scheme Thursday aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons similar to those used in the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in the hours after the March 15 killings that New Zealand's gun laws would be tightened and her government has expedited the change in just three months.

"The buyback and amnesty has one objective -- to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al Noor and Linwood mosques," Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

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Convicted on all seven counts: US sex cult leader Keith Raniere attracted the rich and famous

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A US jury on Wednesday convicted a "self-help" guru of racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes for his leadership of a cult-like organization of sex slaves he branded like cattle.

Keith Raniere, 58, coerced a string of women into having sex with him as the charismatic leader of a life-coaching group he founded in New York state.

Nxivm -- pronounced Nexium -- had proved a huge draw since its 2003 launch, attracting a coterie of rich and famous devotees such as the "Smallville" actress Allison Mack, and spreading into cities across the United States.

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Pompeo ups pressure on Russia over four MH17 accused

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Moscow must ensure that those charged with murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 face justice, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, after international investigators accused three Russians and a Ukrainian over the disaster.

The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.

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