Colombia’s ELN rebels free hostage, opening way for peace talks

Article originally appeared in ReutersColombia’s second-biggest rebel group, the ELN, freed a politician it held captive for almost 10 months on Thursday, meeting a government requirement for delayed peace talks with the group to begin.

The National Liberation Army released Odin Sanchez, 62, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which will accompany him on a flight to Quibdo, in northwestern Choco province, a government official told reporters.

President Juan Manuel Santos had conditioned talks with the 2,000-strong ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, on it freeing hostages. The group has kidnapped hundreds of people over its 52 years to raise funds for the war and to use as bargaining chips with the government.

Talks in Quito were delayed in November pending Sanchez’s release and a government pardon for two jailed rebels. Sit-down negotiations are now set for Feb. 7. …

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