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FARC 'frees' captive Colombian general

November 30, 2014

Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, has confirmed that FARC rebels freed an army general captured earlier this month. General Ruben Alzate's release may help restart Bogota's suspended peace talks with the group.

General Ruben Alzante
Image: Reuters//Colombian Army press office

The Colombian president wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had also released two other hostages, Corporal Jorge Rodriguez and army advisor Gloria Urrego. Santos said General Alzate and his fellow captives would be reunited with their families soon.

"Freed … in prefect condition," Santos wrote.

Fifty-five-year-old General Alzate was the highest-ranking Colombian military official ever to have been kidnapped by the Marxist group. Alzate, Rodriguez and Urrego were kidnapped by FARC fighters on November 16 when they were travelling to the remote area of Choco.

The Colombian government, which had been engaged in peace talks with FARC since November 2012, refused to allow further negotiations until the militant group released the hostages.

Hope for resumed talks

The leftist group released two other captives earlier this week after agreeing last week to release Alzate and several others, paving the way for the resumption of peace talks with the government aimed at ending the South American country's 50-year-long civil war.

Immediately after the kidnapping, President Santos ordered his government's peace negotiators not to travel to Cuba for talks with the rebel group.

"Once [the prisoners] are free, the government's delegation will return to Havana," Santos' office said in a statement on November 19.

"We need to abandon our weapons, the violence and end this armed conflict," Santos said.

FARC, which emerged in the mid 20th century in Colombia to battle rural poverty, has fought a dozen Colombian governments since its inception. The conflict has killed more than 200,000 people.

A US-backed offensive has weakened the rebel group substantially over the past 10 years.

shs/glb (AFP, Reuters, dpa)