A Brazilian helicopter flew into Colombia's southern jungles on Sunday to pick up a group of hostages that FARC guerrillas plan to hand to a Red Cross commission as a humanitarian gesture.
The proposed release this week of two captive politicians and four members of the armed forces is the first handover in a year by Latin America's longest-running insurgency.
A Brazilian helicopter carrying the International Red Cross mission to receive the hostages clattered into the jungles from Florencia town to pick up three captive police officers and one soldier in the first of three planned operations.
"All those to be freed appear to be in good health," said Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a left-wing Colombian lawmaker who has helped broker the hostage handover with the guerrillas.
The new releases have fueled speculation the FARC wants to free more captives and gain political leverage to restore its battered image. But negotiations with the government still appear far off as both sides stick to demands for talks.
Once a powerful army that held large swaths of Colombia, the FARC has been driven back into remote mountains and jungles as President Alvaro Uribe sent troops out to retake control and crush their four-decade-old insurgency.
A second flight on Monday plans to retrieve a politician held hostage for more than seven years.
A third operation later in the week will bring back another captive lawmaker from jungles near the remote Pacific coast. The defense ministry says military operations will be suspended in the areas of the handovers.
The FARC -- or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- was battered by setbacks last year, including the deaths of three top commanders, desertions and the rescue of a group of high-profile captives it hoped to use as bargaining chips.
AgenciesLast Mod: 02 Şubat 2009, 12:01