Colombian FARC rebels release 2 more hostages

Colombian FARC rebels free a kidnapped local politician and a captive marine.

Florencia: Colombian FARC rebels on Friday released a kidnapped local politician and a captive marine to a Red Cross team who flew into the country`s southern jungles in the latest rebel hostage handover.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, often frees a few hostages each year in an attempt to gain political capital, but the government dismisses any chance of peace talks until the FARC frees all its captives and ends hostilities.

Wearing a light suit and pink tie given to him by rebels, town councilman Armando Acuna looked healthy as he stepped off a helicopter along with marine infantryman Henry Lopez, who was escorted away by uniformed officers.

"It`s time for dialogue and to look between us for a way to find peace," Acuna told reporters waiting for him at Florencia, a small city 370 km (230 miles) south of Bogota.

Acuna, from Huila province, was kidnapped in 2009 in an attack by rebels posing as troops. Lopez was snatched in 2010 after combat that killed nine other marines.

The FARC earlier this week freed another local councilman it kidnapped in 2009. Rebels are still holding for political leverage about 15 police officers and soldiers, some of whom have been in captivity for more than a decade.

Since Colombia began a US-backed military offensive in 2002, the country`s long guerrilla war has ebbed and foreign investment has grown fivefold as bombings and attacks by Latin America`s oldest insurgency dropped sharply.

President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to keep a hard line against the guerrillas. Past attempts at talks have fallen apart mainly over rebel demands the government demilitarise a rural zone to guarantee security for negotiators.

Once written off as a failing state mired in drug violence, Colombia is enjoying a boom in oil and mining investment. But rebels remain a risk in rural areas where the state presence is weak and armed gangs still battle over the cocaine trade.

Bureau Report

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