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Brazilian helicopters arrive for Colombia hostages

Last Updated: Sunday, March 28, 2010 - 13:35

Villavicencio: Two Brazilian helicopters arrived in Colombia on Saturday in the first stage of a mission to pick up two hostage soldiers who FARC guerrillas plan to hand over next week.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, will release two of the 24 police and soldiers it holds to leftist Senator Piedad Cordoba and a Red Cross team who will fly into the country`s southern jungles on Sunday and again on Tuesday.

Pablo Emilio Moncayo, held for more than 12 years, and Josue Daniel Calvo were to be freed a year ago, but the handover was delayed as rebels and President Alvaro Uribe`s government disagreed over conditions for their release.

"We`ll set off around 7 am tomorrow to the handover point," Cordoba told reporters.

Calvo is set to be released on Sunday and Moncayo on Tuesday.

The two helicopters arrived from Brazil to Villavicencio, 43 miles south of Bogota. The Army has suspended military operations in the area of the handover.

The FARC has released captives in the past, but talks to end Latin America`s oldest-surviving insurgency have never been held with Uribe, whose US-backed war has battered rebels to their weakest in decades.

Once a powerful army, the FARC relies now on ambushes and bombs to harass troops in their four-decade-old war on the state. Rebels finance their operations with cocaine trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, March 28, 2010 - 13:35

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