A former Colombian lawmaker kidnapped more than eight years ago by FARC guerrillas escaped through the jungles with one of his rebel captors in a severe blow to Latin America's oldest insurgency, Reuters reported.
Wearing a tattered black T-shirt and sporting a tangled grey beard, ex-congressman Oscar Lizcano, 63, marched for three days with his FARC jailer before reaching an army post on Sunday where the guerrilla surrendered to troops.
"Thanks to the army post we found after that march through the harsh jungle, falling down, with my legs swollen," Lizcano told reporters, slumped exhausted in a chair, his voice weak after he was forbidden to talk for so long by his captors.
His escape follows the rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three Americans and a group of other hostages who were freed in a surprise military operation in July after years in jungle camps.
Lizcano's flight illustrates the military pressure facing the FARC and how rebels have been hurt by informants, bounties for deserters and improved intelligence under President Alvaro Uribe, who has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was once a powerful army that controlled large areas of the country. But the rebel group lost three leaders this year and hundreds of fighters have deserted.
Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos said a rebel, known by his alias "Moroco," from the group holding Lizcano escaped in early October and provided details about his camp. Troops and police began a rescue operation over the weekend but Lizcano was already on the run.
"The army were pressuring us, we were starving, that made me take the decision," said the rebel deserter, known as "Isaza," who escaped with Lizcano.
"Our group was abandoned, there wasn't much choice," he said in a video broadcast of him meeting with Uribe.