The operation to release five hostages held by the FARC for more than 12 years has begun despite an initial delay due to rain.
The Brazilian helicopter carrying hostage release mediators and representatives of the Red Cross took off from the airport of the central Colombian city Villavicencio to an undisclosed location near the town of Mapiripan where the FARC is to release five of ten hostages.
The remaining five hostages will be released on Wednesday.
Former Senator Piedad Cordoba, leader of the mediators, confirmed she had received the exact coordinates of the location where the FARC will release their hostages.
While the FARC released the identity of all ten hostages to be released on Monday and Wednesday weeks ago, it is unknown which of them will be released during the first leg.
The Red Cross announced it will immediately notify the press once the hostages are released.
Leading up to the operation, the Colombian military last night suspended all operations in the area around Mapiripan, Meta, where the hostages will be surrendered. On Tuesday evening, the army will suspend all operations in a still undisclosed area where the second operation is due to take place.
Following their release, the hostages will be flown back to Villavicencio. After that they’re expected to meet the press in Bogota‘s military airport Catam.
The release of the last political hostages of the FARC is a milestone in Colombia’s armed conflict, which has been going since the late 1940s when the country’s two political parties, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, violently attempted to wrestle control of the country.
The Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos has always demanded the release of the hostages as a condition to start peace talks with the guerrillas, who have been fighting the state since 1964. While Santos applauded the FARC’s January announcements that it would release the hostages and ban the practice of kidnapping civilians for extortion, the president has demanded more concessions of the guerrillas before he will agree to talk.