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FARC rebels to free six 'political' hostages

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group says it will free six of the up to 700 hostages it holds. The group hopes to swap "political hostages", including former governor Alan Jara (photo), for incarcerated FARC guerrillas.


AFP - The Colombian rebel group FARC said Sunday it will release six of the hundreds of political prisoners it holds, in what it called a "goodwill" gesture.

A Brazilian helicopter carrying a humanitarian delegation left Florencia Sunday to pick up four of the hostages -- three police officers and a soldier -- in the jungles of southern Colombia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

"We have good news that the helicopter has left Florencia," said Yves Heller, spokesman for the ICRC in Colombia.

A former governor was also to be released on Monday and an ex-lawmaker on Wednesday.

The police officers and soldier are to be handed over in Caqueta province to a humanitarian commission headed by Colombian legislator Piedad Cordoba.

The chopper is then due to return to Villavicencio, 90 kilometers (56 miles) southeast of Bogota.

A second helicopter from the Brazilian military was flying in support of the humanitarian mission.

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 FARC -- Latin America's oldest and most powerful rebel group -- has been trying to topple the Colombia 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."

The release reverses a FARC decision announced at the start of 2008 to stop handing over hostages without a demilitarization of certain regions.

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