Colombia’s FARC rebels ‘to free hostages’

Country’s largest left-wing rebel group vows to end once and for all its practice of kidnapping civilians.

FARC protest

Colombia’s FARC, the country’s largest left-wing rebel group, has vowed to free 10 remaining police and military hostages and end its practice of kidnapping civilians.

“We wish to announce that in addition to our already announced plans to free six prisoners of war, we will free the four others who remain under our power,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group said in a statement published on its website on Sunday.

Al Jazeera’s Toby Muse reported from Bogota that the kidnappings have been “nothing but a disaster for the FARC” and have lost the group a lot of support from the population.

“You do see that the FARC seems to be clamouring for talks at this moment,” our correspondent said.

“[The FARC] has taken a number of blows, including the killing of a number of irreplaceable leaders,” he said, noting that nonetheless, the group still counts at least 8,000 members spread across the country.

The promised liberations could help advance negotiations to end the long civil conflict as the government says the group must free all the hostages it holds before talks can start. However, FARC did not say it was abandoning hostilities.

‘Tricks and deception’

The rebels announced on December 27 that they would free six of the captives, but said a month later that they were delaying the release because of a government “militarization” of the area where it said release was planned.

Neither the earlier statement nor the new one specified the location or set a date.

That announcement, also on the rebel website, prompted President Juan Manuel Santos to issue a tweet: “My God, no more tricks and deception. We don’t even know where the hostages are. They haven’t provided the co-ordinates. Free them now!”

Latin America’s last major rebel movement, the FARC was founded in 1964. It has been releasing captives piecemeal since early 2008.

Source: News Agencies