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Colombia Rebels Promise to Free Hostages, End Acts of Ransom

Colombia’s largest rebel group has promised to stop kidnappings for ransom and will release the remaining four hostages it holds in captivity following the death of its leader Alfonso Cano in November.

“We wish to express our feelings of admiration for the families of the soldiers and police in our power,” according to a statement from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a copy of which was on the website of Anncol, a news service where the group’s statements are often published. “They never lost faith.”

The FARC’s ruling council signed the Feb. 26 statement, which they say was published from the mountains of Colombia. The statement comes after the FARC in December agreed to release six hostages, some of whom had been held in captivity for more than a decade.

The group, in the statement, said it doesn’t agree to end hostilities or the taking prisoners of war, and says government decisions to increase military spending will prolong their decades-old conflict. The FARC called on the government to free “political prisoners” as part of a new way of ending the conflict.

“We appreciate the FARC’s announcement that it will renounce kidnapping as an important and needed step, but it’s not enough,” President Juan Manuel Santos said from his Twitter account.

The FARC, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, was founded in 1964 as a rural, Marxist insurgency.

Cano, whose real name was Guillermo Saenz, began leading the FARC after the movement’s founder, Manuel Marulanda, died of a heart attack in 2008. Cano was killed during a firefight as troops and police closed in on his camp.

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