Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia: Farc rebels release two soldiers

Colombian military helicopters take off to search for a general kidnapped by Farc rebels Image copyright AFP
Image caption Colombia launched a large scale search after the kidnappings.

Colombia's Farc rebels have released two soldiers taken hostage earlier this month, the first step in a deal to revive peace talks.

The two, Cesar Rivera and Jonathan Diaz, were captured by the rebels in the eastern border region of Arauca.

Three others, including a Colombian general, were taken in a separate incident and remain captive.

The Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, suspended peace talks until the captives were freed.

Mr Santos announced an agreement had been struck to free the five last week, but it is still unclear when the general will be released.

Ruben Dario Alzate is the first Colombian general to be abducted in 50 years of civil conflict.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The general remains a prisoner of the Farc rebel group.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mediators from Cuba and Norway are assisting the talks between Colombia and Farc rebels.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) played a part in the handover of the two freed soldiers.

"An ICRC medic part of the mission checked on the soldiers to make sure they were fit to travel," said the ICRC in a statement.

"They were transported in a helicopter with the ICRC logo to Tame, Arauca, where they were handed over to representatives of the Army."

'New rules' needed?

The Farc had accused the Colombian government of making the releases difficult by conducting military operations in the area.

President Santos said the talks would resume once all the captives had been set free.

But a top Farc commander, Timoleon Jimenez or "Timochenko", said it might not be that easy, since new rules for the talks might be necessary.

The government agreed to conduct negotiations without agreeing to a ceasefire, but the Farc insists a bilateral truce is more necessary than ever.

Peace talks began two years ago, aimed at ending a conflict that began with the Farc's founding in 1964.

More than 200,000 people have died and millions have fled the violence.

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