German Reinhilt Weigel and Spaniard Asier Huegun were collected by a Red Cross helicopter at a remote jungle clearing and then whisked to the northern Colombian city of Valledupar.

The National Liberation Army, a 5000-strong Cuban ideology-inspired group, is currently holding the Israelis and a British tourist they seized on 12 September.

The remaining captives will be released "as soon as possible," Roman Catholic priest Dario Echeverry who was on the Red Cross chopper, told reporters.

"It has to be before Christmas. I believe in the word of the ELN, and they say they will free them before Christmas." The ELN is the Spanish acronym for The National Liberation Army.

Lost City

Huegun said the rebels had not identified themselves when first they surprised a group of about 20 foreign tourists who had trekked to the Lost City - Indian ruins in the Sierra Nevada. Eight of the hikers were kidnapped.

One of the hostages, 19-year-old Briton Matthew Scott, escaped, surviving for more than two weeks roaming in the jungle before being rescued by a local tribe of Indians.

The rebels freed their captives after the government to investigate claims that the Sierra Nevada was being blockaded by right-wing paramilitaries.

The tourists had all ignored travel warnings for Colombia, the most violent country in Latin America and the world's kidnapping capital.
   
The ELN seizes hundreds of people a year raising funds for its war from ransom payments.