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FARC releases four more hostages

Four more hostages have been released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Former Congress members Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Pérez, Orlando Beltrán and Jorge Géchem were released on Wednesday after over six years in captivity. Their release was reported to have been brokered by Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez. The releases raise hopes that the guerrillas will free more of their estimated 700 hostages. Amnesty International, in welcoming the releases, called for the urgent release of all remaining hostages being held throughout the country. Susan Lee, director of Amnesty International’s Americas programme, said that the releases are "very positive news but we must not forget about the hundreds of civilians who are still being held hostage across Colombia. They must be immediately and unconditionally released." However the FARC, who want to exchange their high-profile prisoners for hundreds of jailed guerrillas, have indicated that they will not free any more hostages until Colombia creates a demilitarised zone for talks. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has said that he will only offer peace talks to FARC if they first lay down their weapons, which they have refused to do. All parties in Colombia's long-running armed conflict – the security forces, paramilitaries acting alone or in conjunction with the armed forces, and guerrilla groups – continue to abuse human rights and violate international humanitarian law.   "We urge both sides in the conflict to stop targeting civilians and call on the Colombian government to investigate all human rights abuses committed in the country and to bring those responsible to justice," said Susan Lee.