Colombian rebels say to free six more hostages

Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:19pm EST

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By Patrick Markey

BOGOTA, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebels plan to free six hostages from jungle camps over the next few days in a gesture toward reaching a deal on exchanging their captives for jailed fighters, the guerrillas said in a statement.

The FARC said two captive politicians and four members of the armed forces held for years would be handed to Piedad Cordoba, a left-wing Colombian senator who has helped broker releases in the past and who confirmed the upcoming operation.

"We announce the upcoming unilateral release of six prisoners in two stages," the FARC said in a communique dated Dec. 17 but published on Sunday. "The conditions of how, when and where will be announced at the proper moment."

The group said three police officers and one soldier would be released first followed by a former governor, Alan Jara, held since 2001, and another politician.

Cordoba, who leads a group of academics and politicians who maintain written communication with the FARC, also did not give details of when or where the release would take place.

The news came after a kidnapped lawmaker escaped in October with one of his rebel captors in another blow to the FARC, already severely weakened by President Alvaro Uribe's U.S.-backed campaign against Latin America's oldest surviving leftist insurgency.

In July, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans held hostage were freed in a surprise military operation. But the FARC is still holding at least 28 other politicians, soldiers and police for political leverage. (Editing by Eric Walsh)




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