Some 16 guerrillas of the ELN gave themselves up to the Colombian army that had surrounded them during an operation in Nariño province on the border with Ecuador, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The president told reporters during a security council meeting Friday in the provincial capital of Pasto that the rebels of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, the second largest rebel group in the country, laid down their arms and surrendered in a rural area around the villages of Barbacoas and Samaniego.

He said that soldiers of the Pegaso Task Force managed to surround "a company that surrendered when they found themselves totally surrounded, a company that had already been hit hard, a company of about 20 rebels, of whom 16 have been removed to a non-combat zone."

The chief executive did not specify what happened to the other four guerrillas, nor whether any Colombian army troops were killed or wounded, nor the exact date of the encounter.

He said the army will continue its operations not only in the southwestern province of Nariño but all across the country, recalling that troops must invade "the lairs of the guerrillas and drag them out" in order to take control of each area.

This is the third security council that Santos has attended this week. On Thursday he was at the one in Cali, capital of the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca, and on Wednesday in Medellin, capital of Antioquia in the northwest.

Last June 13, Santos activated three army brigades and four battalions to combat the ELN and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The soldiers were detailed to the provinces of Arauca and Norte de Santander that border on Venezuela, as well as to Cauca and Nariño. EFE