Watchdog adjusts Colombian conflict death toll to 260,000

A National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla carries a machine gun in a camp on the banks of the San Juan River in the Choco department, in northwestern Colombia

Colombia's six-decade long conflict has left more than 260,000 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an official government update on Thursday.

Marxist guerrillas, drug-traffickers, right-wing paramilitaries and government forces have been involved in the interminable and multi-faceted civil strife that has also displaced 6.9 million civilians.

Of the 262,197 people killed, 215,000 (84 percent) were civilians, the state national center for historical memory (CNMH) said.

The watchdog body said right-wing paramilitaries were the principal culprits, blaming them for 94,754 deaths compared to 36,683 by left-wing rebels and 9,804 by government forces.

The rest of the deaths were caused either by groups formed from the demobilizing of paramilitaries in 2006 or unidentified culprits.

Of the dead, 46,813 were combatants.

CNMH first published a report, called "Basta Ya" (That's Enough), six years ago when it estimated that 220,000 people had been killed between 1958 and 2012.

More than 200,000 of the deaths occurred between 1996 and 2004, during a period of expansion by paramilitaries.

As well as deaths, CNMH also records kidnappings, adjusting its 2012 figure of 27,023 to 37,094, attributing most of those to the left-wing FARC and ELN groups.

CNMH said 15,687 sexual attacks occurred, revising a figure that stood at only 1,754 six years ago. It also said 17,804 children had been recruited to fight in armed groups.

The most notorious rebellion by FARC and ELN guerrillas was launched in 1964 and had its roots in the 1948-58 civil war that pitted conservatives against liberals.

The end of the civil war didn't bring peace, however, but merely saw the creation of communist guerrilla groups that eventually spawned the FARC and ELN.

FARC rebels ended their armed uprising with a historic peace accord signed in December 2016 that turned them into a political party.

Although the ELN continues its struggle, Cuban-hosted truce talks with the government are at an advanced stage.

More than 80 percent of the 260,000 people killed in Colombia's 60-year conflict were civilians