News24

FARC rebels to release 6 hostages

2011-12-28 12:11

Bogota - Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas said on Tuesday they would soon release without condition six police or military hostages who are part of a group of 11 captives held for more than a decade.

Police officers Jorge Trujillo, Jorge Romero and Jose Forero Carrero are to be freed, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said on its website, adding that the names of the other three hostages would be revealed "soon".

Following the statement, Vice President Angelino Garzon said: "What we need is, aside from the release of the three kidnapped people, for the rebels to commit to the unconditional release of everyone they have abducted."

"They need to stop kidnapping, stop the terrorism," Garzon said.

"As President Juan Manuel Santos has said, if they demonstrate that they are committed to peace, the government will have the will to reach out to them on dialogue and a peace process, because what the country needs more than anything is for the violence to stop."

Santos' long-held stance has been that the rebels need to unconditionally free all police and military staff they are holding, end all attacks, and stop recruiting minors as preconditions for the start of peace negotiations.

The six hostages to be released - the FARC calls them "prisoners of war" - were due to be handed to mediator Piedad Cordoba of a humanitarian mission often tasked with fetching hostages, though no date was mentioned.

On December 06, the FARC had promised to free several captives without providing a date. Ten days earlier, four members of the security forces who had been held captive for over 12 years were killed by their kidnappers during clashes with the army.

The killings triggered mass demonstrations demanding that the FARC free all of its hostages, while others called on the military not to put hostages' lives in danger with risky rescue attempts.

Founded in 1964, the Marxist FARC hopes to trade the 11 police and soldiers hostages for several hundred imprisoned guerrillas. They also are holding an unknown number of civilians for ransom.

With fewer than 9 000 fighters, Latin America's longest-fighting insurgent group remains entrenched in large parts of the country. It has been almost a decade since the last peace talks broke down.