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FARC cancels planned hostage release

The Americas Post - A demonstrator's poster shows how many years each hostage has been held by FARC guerrillas. Photo Credit: AFP

FARC guerrillas on Wednesday postponed releasing six Colombian soldiers held for over a decade, claiming that the area where the prisoners were to be freed has been occupied by government troops.

“The area we had chosen for the release of prisoners of war captured in battle has been unfairly militarized by the Government of Colombia, which forces us to defer the operation,” the rebel group said in a statement released on the internet.

The FARC, weakened by a military offensive supported by the U.S. but still able to execute high-impact attacks, announced in December the release of six of the 11 Armed Forces personnel held for more ten years, but the delivery has not yet been finalized.  Late last year other hostages were killed by rebels during combat with the Army,  which had discovered FARC encampments in the jungle.

President Juan Manuel Santos questioned the position of the FARC, considered by U.S. and European Union as a terrorist organization and said the government did not know the hostages were in that area.

“By God, no more tricks and deceit.  We do not even know where the hostage are. They have not given coordinates. Release them now,” Santos said through his Twitter account.

However, the Armed Forces admitted operating throughout the country in fulfilling the mission of pursuing the illegal armed groups.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, accused the rebel group of playing with the hostages and their families as part of a strategy to gain political prominence nationally and internationally and clean up its criminal image.

“These people once again demonstrates the lies they tell and how deeply and permanently they play with the Colombian people,” said the official.

The guerrilla organization have held up to 60 hostages at times, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans, who they sought to exchange for imprisoned guerrillas.

But many were rescued by the Armed Forces and others escaped or died in the jungle. Some have been released by the FARC in phases during recent years.

“As soon as the insanity that has gripped Nariño Palace (the Presidency) abates, we will make a new attempt for you to receive those who will be released,” added the FARC.