The FARC has released four Chinese citizens who were kidnapped in June last year, a piece of good publicity for the rebels after claims that they had broken a unilateral two-month ceasefire within 24 hours.
Three oil contractors and one translator were handed over by rebels to a delegation from the International Red Cross on November 21 in San Vicente del Caguan, in the southern province of Caqueta, reported El Tiempo. They were kidnapped on June 8, 2011, close to San Vicente del Caguan, when Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas stopped the car they were traveling in.
One month after the kidnapping, the rebel group demanded a $3 million ransom payment from their employers (Great Western Drilling Company, which is sub-contracted by the UK firm Emerald Energy) to secure their release. It is unclear whether any payment was made.
All four hostages are reported to be in good health.
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The FARC announced in February that they would cease kidnapping for ransom. This move was followed by the April release of the 10 remaining members of Colombia's security forces who they were holding in captivity, which was seen as a sign of the guerrilla group's will to negotiate peace with the government. Talks began in Oslo last month and moved to Havana on November 19.
Despite the fact that the FARC no longer hold security personnel, many civilians kidnapped by the guerrillas for the purpose of extortion remain unaccounted for. The NGO Fundacion Pais Libre estimated earlier this year that over 400 members of the public were still being held by the FARC. Jaime Alberto Parra, alias "El Medico," a member of the rebel group's peace delegation, declared in September, "Now, there is no longer anybody retained by us."
One possible reason for releasing the Chinese hostages now would be to cast the FARC in a favorable light. The group declared that they would observe a unilateral two month ceasefire beginning November 20. However, this has reportedly already been broken after two guerrillas allegedly attacked soldiers in the southwest province of Cauca.