Kidnapped oil workers freed in Colombia; prisoner release agreed
Five kidnapped oil workers were freed during a military offensive in eastern Colombia, as negotiations were being finalized for the release two soldiers held by leftist rebels, officials said, dpa reported.
The workers had been kidnapped on Saturday, and were liberated Tuesday during military operations in the department of Arauca, bordering Venezuela, the Eighth Army Division said.
"After combat with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), five workers of the Tuboscope and Tecnioriente companies were rescued," a division statement said.
The operation occurred as opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba said the FARC had agreed to security arrangements for the release of two prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross by week's end.
The rebels said they would turn over army Corporal Pablo Moncayo, in captivity since 1997, and a soldier captured in 2009.
Frank Pearl, the government's peace commissioner, said a ceasefire would go into effect Friday evening through Sunday morning to allow the prisoner release.
Red Cross officials said Brazil would provide helicopter transport to the conflict zone to pick up the two prisoners, along with the remains of another officer who died in captivity.
The FARC announced in April 2009 that it would release the two prisoners, but disagreements over security arrangements with the government delayed it for nearly a year. About two dozen soldiers and police are currently being held captive by the rebels.