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Colombian rebels release 10 hostages held since 1998

.- The International Red Cross Commission confirmed on April 2 that ten hostages kidnapped in 1998 by the Marxist rebel group FARC in Colombia have been released.

In a statement issued on Monday, the commission said the group released four soldiers and six police officers.

Local Church leaders praised the news, with Archbishop of Bogota  Ruben Salazar Gomez calling the move “a necessary first step to start the process of dialogue in order to end the scourge of civil war in Colombia.”

Archbishop Salazar urged all groups “that are still holding people as hostages to release them as soon as possible, in order to allow the crime of kidnapping to disappear from our country forever.”

The ten hostages have been transported to the city of Villavicencio by a helicopter provided by the Brazilian government. In the coming days they will be flown to Bogota on a government jet.

The Red Cross thanked the government of Brazil for its cooperation and said it continued to be willing to “facilitate the release of other individuals being held by armed groups.”

“We manifest our great joy over the success of this operation which in one single day allowed ten families that had been waiting for so many years to be reunited,” said Jordi Raich, the head of  Colombia's Red Cross commission.

 “Today the agony for these families is over, and this fills us with great satisfaction,” he said.

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