Colombia`s ELN rebels release kidnapped mayor

 Colombia`s ELN guerrillas released a mayor Sunday whom they kidnapped in December, the army said, amid preliminary talks between the rebels and government on opening a peace process.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 02, 2015, 03:03 AM IST

Bogota: Colombia`s ELN guerrillas released a mayor Sunday whom they kidnapped in December, the army said, amid preliminary talks between the rebels and government on opening a peace process.

The National Liberation Army (ELN), the second-largest leftist rebel group in conflict-torn Colombia, unilaterally decided to free Fredys Palacios, the mayor of the western town of Alto Baudo, a military source told AFP.

"He was freed at dawn. It was an ELN decision, with no military pressure or anything. They just released him in the forest," the source said.

"According to the information we`ve received he`s in good health and was picked up by the police."

Palacios was kidnapped on December 16 while traveling by boat up a river in the Choco department, an impoverished, jungle-covered region where Alto Baudo is located.

The ELN had accused him of corruption.

The government and ELN confirmed last June they have been holding preliminary talks on opening a peace process similar to the two-year-old negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country`s largest rebel group

Both guerrilla groups were founded in the 1960s in rural Colombia.

The more than five-decade conflict, which has at times drawn in drug traffickers and right-wing paramilitaries, has killed 220,000 people and uprooted more than five million.