Colombian troops rescue fourth rebel-held hostage


A Colombian police officer seized 12 years ago by rebels has been found alive in the jungle, hours after three fellow hostages were rescued.

Lt Col William Donato had fled in the confusion as troops attacked a Farc guerrilla camp to free the hostages in southern Guaviare province.

The four men, all held since 1998, were later flown to the capital Bogota where they were met by relatives.

Their rescue came just days before the second round of the presidential poll.

It is believed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) are still holding 19 members of the security forces whom they want to swap for some 500 jailed guerrillas.

Most of the hostages have been held for more than a decade.

Colombian authorities confirmed on Monday that Col Donato had been found alive in the jungle, a short distance from the guerrilla camp where the three other hostages had been freed on Sunday.

Col Donato was in hiding and did not initially respond to calls from soldiers, as he feared they were guerrillas, Colombian media reported.

The police colonel was taken to a military base where he was reunited with fellow police officers, Gen Luis Mendieta and Col Enrique Murillo, and army Sgt Arbey Delgado.


President Alvaro Uribe said on Sunday that the operation to free the hostages which involved some 300 men had been planned for several months.

Gen Mendieta's daughter, Yenny, told a Colombian radio station she could not believe the news of his release and was looking forward to speaking to her father as soon as possible.

His wife, Maria Teresa, said she was the happiest woman in the world.

Gen Mendieta and Col Murillo were captured on 1 November 1998 when Farc rebels overran Mitu, a town in the far east of the country.

Col Donato and Sgt Delgado had been kidnapped earlier in the year.

The rescue operation was the highest-profile mission since July 2008, when French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans were freed from rebel hands.

Former Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos, who was credited with masterminding that operation, is favourite to win the 20 June second round of the presidential election when he will face Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus.

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