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2012-03-23

Colombia hostage release delayed to March 30

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The release of 10 Colombian police and military personnel held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been pushed back four days to March 30, a Red Cross spokesman said March 22.

Helicopters provided by Brazil are scheduled to fly on March 29 to the town of Villavicencio to pick up a first group of hostages the following day in an operation to be carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

An agreement with the FARC calls for the hostages to be released near Villavicencio, some 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Bogota, to the non-governmental group “Colombians for Peace.”

A statement earlier this week from Colombians for Peace raised hopes the hostage release would begin March 26, but the release date was postponed for logistical reasons, government officials said.

A second flight is scheduled for April 1 to pick up the remaining hostages, a Red Cross spokesman said after meeting with mediators and representatives of the Colombian and Brazilian governments.

The schedule could change depending on weather conditions, according to government officials.

The FARC reaffirmed its commitment in early March to releasing the prisoners, who have been held in captivity for more than 12 years.

The rebel group, which holds more than 100 civilians hostage, also officially renounced kidnapping for ransom, which previously provided part of its financing.

“The government has put everything in place to ensure that the release announced by the FARC of 10 military personnel and police is to take place as soon as possible and without setbacks,” Colombian Vice Minister of Defense Jorge Bedoya said.

The FARC is scheduled to provide geographic coordinates for the hostage release no later than March 28, Bedoya said.

[APF, 23/03/2012; Eltiempo.com (Colombia), 23/03/2012]

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