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Colombia's ELN rebels free Dutch citizen

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s Marxist ELN rebels have freed a Dutch citizen kidnapped in January, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday after facilitating his liberation.

The unnamed hostage, whose kidnapping had not previously been reported, was handed over to a joint delegation of ICRC and Catholic Church officials in a rural area of northeastern Norte de Santander province, where the guerrillas are active.

“We are pleased to have contributed to this person recovering their freedom,” Christoph Harnisch, the head of the ICRC’s Colombia delegation, said in the statement.

The National Liberation Army, or ELN, which has about 1,500 fighters, is the country’s second-largest rebel group after the better-known FARC. It has engaged in exploratory talks with the government, but has yet to enter into formal peace negotiations.

An ICRC spokeswoman did not have further details on the man’s identity or what he was doing in the region at the time of his kidnapping.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker