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FARC frees captive politician

Colombian FARC guerillas handed over former provincial governor Alan Jara to a Red Cross team, the first in three announced hostage liberations. Jara was captured in 200 as he was travelling along a rural road in a UN vehicle.

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A Red Cross team swooped by helicopter into Colombia's southern jungles on Tuesday to pick up a politician FARC guerrillas plan to release after more than seven years in captivity.
 

Rebels freed three captive police officers and a soldier on Sunday in the first of three planned handovers that have fueled speculation the FARC is seeking to regain political capital after a year of military setbacks.

 

The Red Cross team and a left-wing senator who helped broker the releases on Tuesday plan to bring back Alan Jara, a former provincial governor who was seized by guerrillas in 2001 as he traveled along a rural road in a U.N. vehicle.

 

 

Jara was one of two remaining politicians in FARC captivity and part of a group of around 20 high-profile hostages the leftist rebels say they want to swap for jailed fighters.

 

But talks to end Colombia's four-decade-old conflict still appear distant.

 

Jara's handover was delayed by a day after President Alvaro Uribe's government and Cordoba's civilian commission sparred over accusations military aircraft had pursued the mission on Sunday. The government denied charges it harassed the team.

 

Begun in the 1960s as a Marxist peasant army, the FARC has been sapped by desertions and the loss of top commanders as Uribe's U.S.-backed military retakes parts of the Andean country once plagued by bombings and massacres.

 

Violence and kidnapping have eased, but the FARC remains a potent force. Rebels still hold scores of hostages for extortion and political leverage and were blamed for two urban bombings over the last week that killed at least four people.

 

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