Colombian rebels to stop all kidnappings

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The Independent US

The Farc rebel group says it intends to abandon the practice of kidnapping and will soon release all of its remaining "prisoners of war," in a move which represents a crucial step towards ending Colombia's 48-year civil war.

A statement released on the left-wing militia's website declared that it intends to set free all 10 members of the security forces it now holds. Seeking ransoms is no longer compatible with its ethos, it said.

"Many speak of the practice of kidnapping people from the civilian population for reasons of financing and sustaining our struggle," read the statement, released yesterday. "From now on we will abandon the practice."

It was datelined "mountains of Colombia", and follows widespread public protests against the Farc's decision to kill four of its hostages in November, when one of its jungle encampments came under attack. Many analysts believe the announcement could lead to peace talks with the Colombian government.

The country's President, Juan Manuel Santos, responded via Twitter, saying: "We value the Farc's announcement that it is renouncing kidnapping as a necessary, if insufficient, step in the right direction."

The Farc has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years. Since 2010, it has lost its two most senior leaders. Around 9,000 rebels loyal to the Farc are believed to remain active, down from a peak of 20,000 a decade ago.