Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC has released the last of its security force hostages, a group of ten men who have been held for more than 12 years, the Red Cross announced Monday.
The four soldiers and six police were surrendered into the care of hostage mediators and the International Red Cross in a rural zone near the border of Colombia’s central Meta department and the south central department of Guaviare.
In a email to Colombia Reports Red Cross Representative Jordi Raich said, “We are happy to announce the success of this operation in only one day that has allowed the reuniting of the ten hostages with their families after so many years. […] Today the agony has stopped for these families and that gives us great satisfaction.”
The hostages were originally scheduled to be released in two groups in two separate operations on Monday and Wednesday.
Family members were waiting in the nearby city of Villavicencio to greet the men, who will receive medical care there before being transferred to a military hospital in Bogota.
Helicopters provided by the Brazilian Air Force, carrying representatives from the Red Cross and NGO Colombians for Peace, left Villavicencio earlier Monday, as set out in a protocol agreed with the rebels.
Last February the FARC announced its intention to release all hostages and discontinue the practice of kidnapping. The Colombian government has applauded the move but said more concessions by the FARC will be needed to start peace talks.
Despite the hostage release and its announcement that it will discontinue kidnapping, the FARC has yet to announce the fate of its civilian hostages, numbering 405 according to newspaper El Tiempo.
The release of the last political hostages of the FARC is a milestone in Colombia‘s armed conflict that has been going since the late 1940s, when the country’s two political parties, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, violently attempted to wrestle control of the country.