Hostage release raises hopes of an end to Colombia's 48-year civil war

President welcomes 10 captives, but says Farc rebels must make more concessions

New hopes for an end to the 48-year civil conflict in Colombia were flickering yesterday after its leftist guerrilla army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, released the last 10 of its military and police hostages and pledged to end all further civilian kidnappings for ransom.

The six policemen and four soldiers, some of whom had been held in remote rebel encampments for 14 years, were flown out of the jungle on Monday aboard a loaned Brazilian army helicopter marked with the Red Cross symbol. After meeting their families they were airlifted to Bogota for debriefings and medical check-ups.

"I shouted! I jumped up and down!" one mother, Olivia Solarte, exclaimed after hearing that her son was to be set free at last. She had not seen him in more than a decade.

Another of the men was reunited with a teenage son who was only four years old when he last saw him. Some stepped from the helicopter with pets, which included a monkey, a peccary and two small birds.

"We all were singing in the helicopter, full of emotions," said Piedad Cordoba, a former senator and the head of Colombians for Peace, which worked with the Red Cross on the operation.

The release of the hostages offers Colombians a glimpse of a future no longer marred by the Farc uprising that has been fuelled by money from cocaine and ransom demands. In the late 1990s, the rebels controlled half of the countryside but in recent years they have been driven deep into jungle areas. Much of the Farc leadership has been killed by government troops aided by billions of dollars in US training and assistance.

If the remaining Farc leadership is hoping the hostage release will spur the government to accept its request for peace negotiations, it may be disappointed. President Juan Manuel Santos, who as Defence Minister under his predecessor led the effort to turn back the tide on the Farc, signalled in a national address that he expected more concessions before talks could begin. Releasing the hostages was "a step in the right direction, a very important step", he conceded.

"We share in the joy of these releases and we especially appreciate the pledge by the Farc to stop kidnapping," Mr Santos said. But he cautioned that notion of peace talks beginning soon was "pure speculation", adding: "When the government considers that sufficient conditions and guarantees exist to begin a process that brings an end to the conflict, the country will know."

Human rights groups estimate that up to 400 hostages taken by the Farc since 1996 remain unaccounted for. Nor has the violence ended. In March, the Farc killed 11 soldiers near the Venezuelan border. Government forces responded with an aerial bombardment that reportedly killed 60 of the insurgents. Another 36 rebels were killed by government forces a week ago.

The Colombian government estimates that the Farc, founded in 1964, still has around 9,000 loyal fighters encamped in the jungle.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments