Colombia FARC rebels free four Chinese captives held since mid-2011

BOGOTA Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:21am EST

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC rebels freed three captive Chinese oil workers and their translator held in jungle camps for more than a year, a police source said on Thursday.

The release late Wednesday comes as government and FARC negotiators meet in Havana, Cuba to hammer out a five-point peace plan that may bring an end to a war that has left tens of thousands dead since it began in 1964.

The oil contractors were taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in mid-2011 as they were driving in southern Colombia. The FARC handed their captives over to Red Cross workers.

A decade-long government offensive against the FARC has pushed the rebels deep into inhospitable jungle territory, helping foreign and local oil companies and their workers drill more safely.

But the Marxist group has stepped up attacks against oil installations over the last year or so, bombing pipelines, kidnapping workers, and making it difficult for companies to maintain output levels.

The FARC early this week said it ordered a unilateral ceasefire for two months, but police say the guerrilla group hasn't yet met that vow.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta Editing by W Simon)

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