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Colombia's FARC rebels free former US soldier Sutay

Colombia's FARC rebels have released a former US military serviceman, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Kevin Scott Sutay was kidnapped in June after wandering into guerilla territory.

Sutay was handed over to Cuban and Norwegian officials, as well as the ICRC, on Sunday, and later taken to US embassy officials at the airport in Bogota. He was captured by the FARC after ignoring police warnings against hiking through a "red zone" known for rebel activity in the southeastern province of Guaviare.

Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the Colombian government and President Juan Manuel Santos for their "tireless efforts" in securing the release of Sutay, who is in his late 20s.

"We are pleased about the liberation today of US citizen Kevin Scott Sutay who was in the hands of the FARC," said a statement from Kerry's office.

ICRC doctors said that Sutay was in good health and fit to travel, but it was not yet known if he had flown to the US.

Delayed release

The leftist rebels had originally announced their intention to release Sutay in July. However, it was delayed when Santos refused to allow high-profile, left-wing US politician, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, to oversee his liberation. Jackson later began working towards Sutay's release in September, including meeting with FARC negotiators in Cuba, but the rebel group's demand he head the delegation overseeing the process was ultimately denied by the Colombian president.

At the time of Sutay's capture, the FARC said they suspected him of being a US agent. He was the only foreigner believed to be currently held by Colombian rebels.

His release is seen as a good-faith effort that could help further ongoing Cuba-brokered peace talks between FARC and the Colombian government.

dr/lw (AP, Reuters, AFP)