FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, said it’s ready to start freeing 10 soldiers and police officers who have been held prisoner for as long as 14 years, reported The Washington Post. But the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia also said it was waiting for President Juan Manuel Santos to permit a group of activists to visit jailed guerrillas.
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President Santos had already said he will not open a dialogue with FARC until all hostages are released and the group proves it will disarm and rejoin civilian society, according to BBC News. FARC officially renounced the abduction of civilians late last month.
A statement on FARC's website said that the group plans to release the captives in two groups, and that now all that's left is for the president to allow the prison visits.
The rebel group hasn't specified a date for freeing hostages, reported USA Today. Former Colombian Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who has served as a go-between, said she expects the release will happen no later than the first week of April.
Colombia's military also said FARC fighters killed 10 soldiers and one officer in the northeast on the same day as the announcement, near the Venezuelan border, according to USA Today.
BBC News reported that the soldiers were ambushed while patrolling an area in Arauquita that is under exploration by oil companies and is often targeted by rebels. The soldiers killed belonged to a company in charge of protecting oil installations and roads used by gas tankers.