Weekend News / World

Colombian General Alzate freed by Farc rebels

Farc rebels in Colombia have released a general and two others who were abducted two weeks ago.

Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate and the other captives were handed over to a humanitarian mission led by the International Red Cross. They were taken to a military base near the city of Medellin before travelling to be reunited with their families.

Gen. Alzate’s abduction on 16 November prompted the president to suspend peace talks with the rebels in Cuba.

President Juan Manuel Santos said that the general’s release “helps to create a favourable atmosphere for the continuation of the talks”. But Farc negotiators said they were not happy with the way the government had dealt with the incident.

“We can’t be in the hands of the government, which decides when to suspend and when to reopen the negotiations,” Farc delegate Jesus Santrich told Venezuelan channel Telesur.”There is no set date as yet for the talks to be resumed,” he added.

Brigadier Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate Mora
Ruben Dario Alzate was the first Colombian general to be abducted in 50 years of civil conflict.

Soldiers had spent two weeks searching for the hostages along the remote Atrato river in Choco province.

In a statement released in the Cuban capital Havana, the rebels said: “We can’t let the peace process that has reached such an advanced state, where key issues are being discussed, be subject to such rushed, thoughtless actions”.

The negotiations in Havana have been under way for two years and aim to bring an end to five decades of conflict, in which 220,000 people are estimated to have died.

Pastor Alape, a Farc negotiator and commander of the rebel block responsible for the abductions, travelled from Cuba to personally co-ordinate the release of the hostages.

The Red Cross and the Farc said that the handover had taken place in a remote location in Choco province, an isolated jungle region on Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

Gen. Alzate, Cpl. Jorge Rodriguez and lawyer Gloria Urrego were kidnapped 14 days earlier while travelling along the Atrato river by boat.

After being freed, they were taken to the Rionegro Military Base, near Medellin, where they met Colombian Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.

The Farc said they kidnapped the general because they were unhappy that President Santos had continued military operations against them during peace talks.

The left-wing rebel group has renewed calls for both sides to call a ceasefire while the peace negotiations proceed.
The government has rejected such calls, saying that a truce would only help the rebel group regroup and rearm.

(Source: BBC World)

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