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FARC releases 2 more longtime prisoners

By the CNN Wire Staff
Released hostage Police Maj. Guillermo Solorzano waves Wednesday before boarding a plane for Bogota.
Released hostage Police Maj. Guillermo Solorzano waves Wednesday before boarding a plane for Bogota.
  • The two men were released in southwestern Colombia
  • They are being taken by helicopter to be reunited with their families
  • FARC's releases bring to six the number of hostages freed since February 9

Bogota, Colombia (CNN) -- Members of a Colombian leftist rebel group released two more longtime prisoners Wednesday afternoon, bringing the total released since February 9 to six, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, freed Police Maj. Guillermo Solorzano and Army Cpl. Salin Antonio Sanmiguel Valderrama on Wednesday afternoon in a rural area located in the departments of Cauca and Valley of the Cauca in southwest Colombia, the Red Cross said in a news release.

Solorzano had spent three years and eight months in captivity; Sanmiguel had been held for two years and eight months, it said.

Both men were handed over to former Sen. Piedad Cordoba, ICRC representatives and a member of the group Colombian Men and Women for Peace, the Red Cross said. The freed men were being taken to the city of Cali in a helicopter donated by the government of Brazil. From there, they were to travel to Bogota to reunite with their families.

"It pleases us that the relatives can be with their loved ones whom they have been waiting for for a long time," said Christophe Beney, the International Red Cross's chief in Colombia. "We are very satisfied that, in the end, the agreements assumed by the sides, as much by the Colombian government as by the FARC, have been carried out."

With the handover, the number of people freed by the FARC since February 9 rises to six, the Red Cross said.

The releases came three days after an initial attempt to retrieve the hostages failed when coordinates for their location proved to be inaccurate.

Solorzano, Sanmiguel, and police patrolman Carlos Alberto Ocampo were to have be released Sunday, but only Ocampo was freed. Colombian authorities were upset at what they said were wrong coordinates given by the Marxist guerrilla group.

In December, the FARC pledged to release five hostages as a humanitarian gesture. Wednesday's releases surpassed that number by one.

Some have suggested the hostage releases could fuel renewed negotiations between Colombia's government and the rebels. One of the freed hostages called for dialogue between the government and insurgents.

"Humanitarian exchange is the first step toward a friendly understanding, which permits the return of our brothers deprived of their liberty," politician Armando Acuna said last week after his release.

But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has sharply criticized the FARC, accusing the group of having a "double standard" and creating an "absurd media show" in order to draw sympathy to its cause.

He said last week that he was tempted to call off the rescue mission after learning that two workers from the Carton de Colombia company had been kidnapped the night before in southwestern Colombia.