2 Feb 2009

Colombian Farc rebels free hostages

4:09 pm on 2 February 2009

Four people who had been held hostage by Colombia's left-wing Farc rebels since 2007 have been released.

A helicopter collected three police officers and a soldier from a pre-arranged spot in the jungle and flew them to Villavicencio, east of Bogata.

They were the first captives to be unilaterally released by the rebels in almost a year, the BBC reports.

The Farc have suffered recent setbacks as the government drives them further into mountain and jungle areas. They have said they intend to free two politicians in the coming days.

The four were greeted by supporters waving flowers after they landed in Villavicencio.

They had been among 28 "political hostages" held by the group, which wants to use them to secure the release of some of their own jailed members.

They group had been collected by a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Senator Piedad Cordoba, a left-wing politician who had helped broker the deal to free them.

They had flown into the jungle of Caqueta state to a pre-arranged spot to receive the hostages.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) said the release would be followed by that of a former lawmaker, Sigifredo Lopez, and a former governor, Alan Jara, by Wednesday.

The Farc, who have been fighting the government since the 1960s, are believed to hold hundreds of hostages.

The BBC reports there have been indications that the rebels may want to reopen negotiations with the government.