Colombian rebels to free four hostages

February 21st, 2008 - 6:47 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Bogota, Feb 21 (IANS) Colombia’s largest leftist insurgency group has said it would release four hostages, including former senator Jorge Eduardo Gechem Turbay, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Thursday. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has said Gechem would be the fourth person to be freed along with lawmakers Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez and Orlando Beltran. All of them have been in captivity for more than seven years.

The FARC announcement of the new release came three weeks after the rebels freed former vice-presidential candidate Clara Rojas and former legislator Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo, the FARC had announced to release three more captives.

However, the release of Gechem came to light only after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told a press conference that the rebels would also free a fourth captive but declined to identify him.

Addressing media persons at the Miraflores Palace here, Kouchner Wednesday quoted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as telling him the rebels had added a fourth name to the list of hostages they proposed on Jan 31 to set free, but declined to reveal the person’s identity, Spain’s EFE news agency reported Thursday.

The Colombian senator whose kidnapping six years ago was the act leading to the breakdown of the peace process between the Marxist FARC rebels and the government of then-President Andres Pastrana will be the next hostage to be freed by the guerrillas, the captive’s wife said Wednesday.

Besides the six politicians, the “exchangeables” also include nearly 50 high-profile hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt - who holds dual French-Colombian citizenship - three US defence contractors and dozens of Colombian soldiers and police officers, whom the FARC wants to exchange for hundreds of jailed rebels.

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