FARC rebels free hostages

2009-02-02 07:28

Villavicencio, Colombia - Colombia's embattled FARC rebels on Sunday handed over four hostages to a humanitarian delegation in the country's southern jungles, a mediator's spokesperson told AFP.

The captives, three police officers and a soldier, are part of a group of six hostages the Marxist rebels have promised to free by Wednesday.

"They have entered into the hands of the delegation and are in flight" by helicopter, said Ricardo Montenegro, a spokesperson for Senator Piedad Cordoba, who has played a key role in talks to secure the hostages' release.

After the handover at 16:00 GMT, a Brazilian helicopter - accompanied by a second chopper - was on its way with the four hostages to Villavicencio, 90km southeast of Bogota.

A member of the delegation told Venezuelan television that the hostages' arrival in Villavicencio was delayed by several hours due to Colombian military operations in the area where they were freed.

However, Colombia's High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, dismissed the assertion, telling reporters: "We will not allow people to launch unfounded accusations."

Venezuela's Telesur also reported that a rebel from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was killed in clashes with the Colombian army during the rescue operation, citing a spokesperson for the insurgent group.

More humanitarian gestures

Cordoba played a key role in talks to secure the hostages' release, a unilateral move that has marked an about-face for the rebels who had previously ruled out freeing captives without concessions.

The four hostages were received by a delegation that included Cordoba, representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and members of a Colombian peace group.

The same helicopter that retrieved the four hostages was due to pick up on Monday Alan Jara, a former governor abducted in 2001, in a similar operation. The rebels were expected to release on Wednesday former lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez, kidnapped in 2002.

The ICRC had previously secured a commitment from the country's defence minister to halt military operations in the Caqueta province, paving the way for the humanitarian mission.

The peace group that helped broker the freeing of the hostages, Colombians for Peace, said on Sunday it would ask the guerrillas to undertake more humanitarian gestures as part of a written dialogue with the rebels that began in September.

"We are going to continue on the path of a written dialogue that is based on humanitarian acts," said Ivan Cepeda, one of the group's leaders.

In a statement posted online, the FARC had promised on December 21 to release the hostages.

'Manoeuvre'

The group has described the move as a "goodwill" gesture, while the Colombian government has called it a " manoeuvre " designed to ease military pressure and gain international sympathy.

The release reverses a FARC decision announced in early 2008 to stop handing over hostages without a demilitarisation of certain regions.

The captives are part of a group of so-called "political hostages" the FARC has wanted to swap for some 500 guerrillas held in Colombian and US jails.

The rebels last carried out a unilateral release of hostages in January and February 2008.

In July, French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt - a former presidential candidate - was rescued in an operation mounted by Colombian spies who tricked the rebels into handing her over along with 14 other hostages.

Former Colombian lawmaker Oscar Tulio Lizcano managed to escape his captors in October.

The FARC - Latin America's oldest and most powerful guerrilla force - has been trying to topple the Colombian government since the 1960s.

A humanitarian prisoner swap has been considered for several years with the rebels, who currently hold between 350 and 700 hostages, including 28 "political hostages".

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia E7

Your mobile office Real-time emails with Mail for Exchange. Easy access to...

From R3499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.