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Colombia's ELN rebels release Canadian mining executive

Colombia's leftist ELN rebels have released a Canadian mining executive held captive since January. The government had demanded he be freed as a condition for holding peace talks.

Gernot Wober was freed Tuesday by Colombia's number two rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN). The Red Cross said in a statement that the 47-year-old had boarded one of their helicopters in good health before being flown to safety.

Wobert was captured in northern Sur de Bolivar state on January 18 while visiting a gold-mining camp. He was taken along with two Peruvians and three Colombians employed by his company, all of whom were released a month later except for Wober.

The ELN, which opposes mining by foreign companies in Colombia, had demanded Wober's Braeval Mining Corp. halt exploration in the local Snow Mine. Last month the company announced it was pulling out of Colombia, and on Tuesday the ELN said it would free Wober.

Top commander Nicloas Rodriguez, known as Gabino, said in a video statement on the ELN's website that Wober's release was a "humanitarian act" that would be seen as a "contribution for peace in Colombia."

"We want to highlight that this successful outcome shows that negotiated solutions to conflicts are possible, even if there are competing interests," Rodriguez said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said last week that Wober's release would be an important step on the road towards negotiations between the government and the ELN.

Bogota has been engaged in Cuba-brokered talks with the country's largest rebel group, FARC, since November. Ahead of the negotiations, FARC gave up kidnappings and freed its last police and military hostages in April.

dr/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)