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Colombian rebels release soldier

By CNN Staff
updated 7:12 AM EST, Sun February 17, 2013
One of five Geo Explorer employees released by Colombia's ELN rebels earlier in the week.
One of five Geo Explorer employees released by Colombia's ELN rebels earlier in the week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Soldier was captured by the FARC late last month
  • He is at least the eighth person freed this week
  • FARC rebels, the government are in peace talks

(CNN) -- The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, commonly known as the FARC, released a soldier hostage on Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.

The soldier, identified as Josue Alvarez, was captured on January 30 in Narino, a department in southwest Colombia. He was released in that same department to a humanitarian team.

"We hope Mr. Alvarez will soon be reunited with his family," Jordi Raich, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, said in a statement. "We are delighted that the operation went smoothly."

ICRC said it has facilitated the release of eight people this week, including Alvarez, two police officers, also held by the FARC, and five civilians, held by a second rebel group, known as the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

The five civilians who were captured January 18 work for a mining company.

The police officers were taken in Valle del Cauca, another department in southwest Colombia, and had been held since January 25.

Their releases come amid peace talks between the government and the FARC. The two sides have been at war since the 1960s.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said he wants talks wrapped up by November.

There have been sporadic attempts at peace in the past.

The last effort fell apart in 2002. Then-President Andres Pastrana ceded an area the size of Switzerland to the guerrilla group, but he ended negotiations after rebels launched a series of attacks across the country in an apparent bid to strengthen their position.

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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