Columbian Rebel Group Plans Release of Hostages

Colombia's main leftist rebel group plans a hostage release on Sunday, its first in nearly a year, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday.

It did not say how many hostages would be freed or where, but Brazil is to provide two helicopters for the airlift that are to bear the Red Cross insignia.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, announced on Dec. 21 that it would free two politicians and four security force members. Though badly battered by Colombia's U.S.-backed military in recent months, it nevertheless still holds dozens of hostages.

The rebels were badly burned in July when Colombian military agents posing as members of a fictitious international humanitarian organization rescued from FARC custody French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. military contractors and 11 others in an elaborate ruse.

During the mission, one of the undercover agents wore a bib with the Red Cross's insignia, violating the Geneva Conventions.

Red Cross spokesman Yves Heller said three ICRC delegates and four members of a group called Colombians for Peace — members of the political opposition — would be aboard the two choppers on Sunday.

Among the four will be Sen. Piedad Cordoba, the opposition senator who has been the main visible protagonist in brokering this release.

A close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, she is a divisive figure in Colombia and was involved in the early 2008 releases of six hostages who were turned over to Chavez's government.

Colombia's peace commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo, told reporters Wednesday that the helicopters are not expected to fly to Bogota with the released hostages — but rather to an unspecified civilian airfield he did not reveal.