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  • A wall painted with pro-ELN graffiti is seen in El Palo, Cauca, Colombia, Feb. 3, 2016.

    A wall painted with pro-ELN graffiti is seen in El Palo, Cauca, Colombia, Feb. 3, 2016. | Photo: EFE

Published 27 March 2016

Peace talks between the Colombian government and the country's second-largest guerrilla force have been mired in the exploratory phase for months.

Colombia's public prosecutor is set to lay criminal charges against the five-man leadership of the National Liberation Army, Semana magazine reported Sunday.

The laying of charges is likely to further derail an already weakened peace effort with Colombia's second-largest guerrilla army. 

The largest guerrilla force, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is set to sign a final peace deal with the government in the coming weeks. 

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The charges relate to damages caused by the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, to the country's infrastructure, specifically the Caño Limon-Coveñas oil pipeline. Causing intentional damage to critical infrastructure is a common tactic used by guerrilla forces.

RELATED: FARC Responds to Government Accusations over Oil Spill

These charges come as the result of an investigation carried out by the Springer Von Schwarzenberg Consulting Service, a group that itself has come under heavy scrutiny inside Colombia.

The consulting firm has charged approximately US$1.3 billion in fees for reports that have not been made available to the public. 

The Colombian prosecutor's office, on the basis of the consultant's report, alleges that the attacks against the pipeline constitute the world's largest environmental catastrophe as a result of an oil spill. Officials allege three million barrels of oil have been spilled as a result of attacks.

The individuals to be charged are: Nicolas Rodríguez Bautista, Eliecer Herlinton Chamorro Acosta, Antonio García; Israel Ramírez Pineda, Rafael Sierra Granados, and Gustavo Aníbal Giraldo Quinchía.

The public prosecutor is also investigating a number of other alleged crimes by members of the ELN, with 15,741 open investigations.

Colombia's ELN Rebels Declare 72-Hour Lockdown

Presently, there is no cease-fire between the government and the ELN, meaning the two parties are still in an open state of war, despite ongoing exploratory peace talks.

The Colombian army killed seven ELN guerrillas in February, striking yet another blow to hopes that peace talks could move out of the exploratory phase.

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