Latin America & Caribbean

Rescued Colombia Farc hostage reunited with family

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos embracing rescued hostage Sgt Luis Alberto Erazo
Image caption President Santos said Sgt Luis Alberto Erazo was a national hero

Colombian police Sgt Luis Alberto Erazo has been reunited with his family after being held for 12 years by left-wing Farc rebels.

Sgt Erazo, 40, was rescued by the armed forces on Saturday.

Four other hostages, also members of the security forces, were shot dead by the guerrillas as troops closed in.

Sgt Erazo was wounded in the face by shrapnel from grenades thrown by the rebels as he fled into the jungle to escape being killed.

He was flown to Bogota on Sunday for medical treatment and to be reunited with his girlfriend and 16-year-old daughter, as well as other relatives.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who visited him in hospital, hailed him as a "national hero".

"It is a moment of contradictory feelings," Mr Santos said.

"There is great joy over the return to freedom of Sgt Erazo but great pain for the murder of the other hostages."

The Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government since the 1960s.

The rebels still hold 10 members of the security forces, as well as dozens of civilian captives

'Broken my heart'

The bodies of the four dead hostages have been taken to a military base and will be handed over to their relatives for burial.

Image caption Sgt Martinez's son Johan said he had dreamed all his life of meeting his father

Police Col Edgar Duarte Valero, police Major Elkin Hernandez Rivas, policeman Alvaro Moreno, and army Sgt Jose Martinez Estrada had all been in captivity for more than 12 years.

Sgt Martinez's 13-year-old son Johan, who was born three months after his father was captured, pleaded with the Farc to release all their remaining captives.

"People of the Farc, yesterday you broke my heart and ruined my dream of meeting my father personally - a dream I had held for 13 years, 11 months and five days," he said.

Relatives of the other killed hostages have blamed the government and armed forces for their deaths, saying they should have negotiated for their release.

"The government never dropped its guard to rescue the hostages," Margarita Hernandez, sister of the killed Maj Elkin Hernandez, told El Tiempo newspaper.

"For five years we have been asking for their release through dialogue and now they give us a flag and tell us our family members were national heroes. It is worth nothing," she added.

The military said they launched an operation in the Caqueta region 45 days ago after receiving intelligence that the Farc might by holding hostages in the area.

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