FARC deserters hand in hostages to police
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Businessman Eduardo Almecigas, 31, and Alvaro Martinez, a 15-year-old student, were freed from the grips of FARC rebels on Tuesday by two deserters who handed themselves in to the police, lured by promises of reward money.
AFP - Two FARC guerrillas turned themselves in to police Tuesday, along with two hostages freed from a rebel encampment in southeastern Colombia, officials said.
The release brings to four the number of hostages liberated since October by rebels fleeing the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia group.
President Alvaro Uribe last month announced hefty rewards and freedom for rebels who desert with prominent hostages. So far, one reward of 443,000 dollars has been paid out.
The two latest releases were of businessman Eduardo Almecigas, 31, kidnapped December 24, and Alvaro Martinez, a 15-year-old student kidnapped December 27.
The rebels had demanded a 455,000 dollar ransom for Almecigas, and 2.3 million dollars for Martinez.
"Two guerrillas, apparently from FARC's unit 26, turned themselves in, and in turn, brought in two people who had been kidnapped," regional prosecutor Maria Rocha told reporters.
She said the hostages and rebels surrendered to a special, anti-kidnapping police unit in Cubarral, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Bogota, and were immediately transferred to the capital.
Since October 26, four hostages, including ex-lawmaker Oscar Lizano who was held for eight years, have been set free by rebels who deserted FARC.
The rebel who freed Lizano received a 443,000-dollar reward and was allowed to live in France, which has offered to take in FARC rebels who lay down their weapons and are not wanted for crimes.
A female FARC rebel who surrendered January 3 with a kidnapped businessman is also considered for a reward.
A humanitarian exchange has been considered for several years with FARC rebels, which holds between 350 and 700 hostages, including 28 so-called "political hostages" they want to swap for some 500 guerrillas held in Colombian and US jails.
Uribe justified his reward measure before skeptical lawmakers, saying that the defection of a guerrilla with an abductee was akin to a humanitarian agreement.
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