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September 25, 2021

Colombia’s Farc rebels release hostages

Colombia’s Farc rebels have released their last 10 police and military hostages – some of whom have spent 14 years in captivity.They were collected from the jungle by a Brazilian military helicopter and flown to safety. President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the releases but said they were “not enough” to open direct peace talks.Farc has been fighting Colombia’s government for five decades, making it Latin America’s oldest insurgency.The rebels, who have lost ground in recent years, are still holding an unknown number of civilians hostage.Television pictures showed the former hostages waving and punching the air as they got off the helicopter at the city of Villavicencio, where they were welcomed by their relatives and given medical checks before being flown on to the capital, Bogota. Some emerged with their pets, which included a peccary – a kind of wild pig – and a monkey.“Welcome to liberty, soldiers and policemen of Colombia,” Mr Santos said at the presidential palace. “Freedom has been very delayed but now it is yours, to the delight of the whole country.”But he warned that until all hostages were freed, his government would continue its policy of confronting armed groups. “When the government believes there are enough guarantees to begin a process that leads to the end of the conflict, the country will know it,” he said. The hostage release was co-ordinated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a group of Colombian mediators led by former senator Piedad Cordoba.

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