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Rebels vow to free army corporal after 11 years

Colombia's largest rebel group promised on Thursday to release an army corporal kidnapped 11 years ago in a hostage case made famous by his dad, who walked across Colombia.
Image: Pablo Emilio Moncayo
A videograb image taken from Al Jazeera Qatari TV shows Pablo Emilio Moncayo Cabrera, a Colombian Army soldier being held by Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces.Al Jazeera Qatari TV / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

Colombia's largest rebel group promised on Thursday to release an army corporal kidnapped 11 years ago in a hostage case made famous by his father, who walked across the country to push for his release.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said it would unilaterally release Army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, who was 19 when taken hostage during a raid on a mountaintop communications post on Dec. 21, 1997.

His father, rural schoolteacher Gustavo Moncayo, spent more than a month walking more than 620 miles across Colombia in 2007 to rally support for a prisoner swap that would include his son's release.

Pablo Moncayo, now 31, is one of the longest-held hostages of the FARC's 22 "political prisoners," soldiers and politicians whom the FARC has indicated it would swap for hundreds of rebels jailed by Colombia's government.

The FARC's announcement appeared in a letter published on the Web site of opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who has served as a go-between in rebel hostage releases in the past. The rebels often use the site for their announcements. Cordoba did not comment on the message.

The FARC said it would hand over Moncayo to a commission headed by Cordoba and Gustavo Moncayo, "once the proper measures are taken to ensure the operation's security."

The guerrilla group also reiterated its willingness to free additional hostages in the future in exchange for the release of FARC prisoners held in Colombian jails.

Gustavo Moncayo told RCN Radio that he received the news of his son's pending release "with great joy," and Pablo Moncayo's mother, Maria Stella Cabrera, told The Associated Press that she would welcome her son home with sancocho, a seasoned stew of meat, plantains, potatoes, and yucca.

"It's what he most liked," Cabrera said in a telephone interview.

Last remaining rebel army
President Alvaro Uribe responded less enthusiastically to the FARC's announcement, telling reporters that Pablo Moncayo "should never have been kidnapped in the first place."

"They should release him immediately," Uribe said.

The leftist FARC is the Western Hemisphere's last remaining rebel army, which has fought for nearly a half-century to topple a succession of governments. The group now sustains itself with drug trafficking.

The FARC currently holds 22 public officials — 13 police officers and nine soldiers — in addition to what authorities believe are hundreds of others.

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