FARC frees Colombian soldier

Leftist FARC rebels released a Colombian soldier Friday, nearly a week after beginning a unilateral ceasefire aimed at ending Latin America`s longest-running conflict.

AFP| Updated: Dec 27, 2014, 03:23 AM IST

Bogota: Leftist FARC rebels released a Colombian soldier Friday, nearly a week after beginning a unilateral ceasefire aimed at ending Latin America`s longest-running conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the release of Carlos Becerra Ojeda in a rural area of southwestern Cauca department as "another step in the right direction."

"We hope that this release demonstrates an irreversible decision to end the conflict and that such events will not happen again," he added on Twitter.

The soldier, who had been held since December 19, was handed over to a humanitarian commission including representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as from Cuba and Norway, the guarantor countries of the peace talks that guerrillas have held with the government in Havana since November 2012.

On Thursday, in announcing it would release the soldier, the FARC said he had been slightly wounded during clashes between the army and the rebels, but his current condition was unknown.

The clash left five soldiers dead and five wounded.

In late November, the FARC released Army General Ruben Dario Alzate, whose capture along with two others had caused the temporary suspension of the peace negotiations.

The talks in Havana are taking place despite the lack of a bilateral ceasefire, with the Santos government withholding a commitment to a ceasefire from its side out of concern the FARC could use such a move to strengthen militarily.

The long-running conflict, which has lasted more than half a century, has killed some 220,000 people and displaced 5.3 million more.