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article imageColombian Marxist guerrillas release hostage after almost a year

By AFP     Dec 27, 2018 in World

Colombia's last remaining Marxist rebel group, the ELN on Thursday released a hostage held for almost a year, the country's ombudsman's office said on Twitter.

Engineer Rafael Andres Riano Ravelo was 41 when he was captured close to Colombia's border with Ecuador on January 13.

His release comes during a 10-day Christmas truce called by the ELN and due to last from December 23 to January 3.

Riano Ravelo, who was handed over to a humanitarian mission jointly run by the government and the Catholic church, was one of 10 hostages the right-wing government of President Ivan Duque believes the ELN is currently holding.

The hostage issue is one of the main stumbling blocks to kick-starting peace talks between the government and the ELN that have been on hold since Duque assumed office in August.

His predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos failed in a bid to sign a disarmament deal with the ELN, similar to the one that saw FARC rebels lay down their arms in 2016 and form a political party, before he left office.

Duque has favored a much harder line towards the leftist guerrillas and insists that peace talks can only resume once all hostages have been released and the ELN ceases its "criminal activities."

The ELN, which is considered the last active rebel group in Colombia and numbers around 1,800 fighters, has rejected those demands as "unacceptable."

Colombia has been beset for more than half a century by a multifaceted armed conflict mostly carried out in lawless jungle regions and involving Marxist guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, as well as government forces.

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