Sat, Apr 03, 2010 - Page 7 News List

FARC returns body of police officer kidnapped in 1998

AP , BOGOTA

Colombia’s largest rebel group on Thursday turned over the remains of a police officer who died while being held captive — the guerrillas’ latest gesture aimed at prodding the government into negotiating a prisoner exchange.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) gave a humanitarian mission led by Senator Piedad Cordoba the coordinates of the spot for the handover of the remains of police Major Julian Guevara.

A Super Cougar helicopter flown by a Brazilian crew ferried the mission into the Colombian jungle and returned them along with Guevara’s remains to the southeastern city of Villavicencio, Colombia.

The dead man’s mother, Emperatriz Castro de Guevara, and his daughter, Ana Maria, received the coffin holding his remains at the airport. Authorities plan to use DNA testing to confirm the bones are those of Guevara.

Guevara was captured by the FARC in November 1998 and he died in January 2006 while still a prisoner.

Cordoba said the rebels handed over the remains inside the coffin after holding a ceremony.

“It was a moving act,” Cordoba said. “Military honors were bestowed [on Guevara] as a war hero.”

The International Red Cross played a key role in the mission.

Guevara’s mother and daughter were later flown to the capital of Bogota, where authorities plan to carry out the DNA testing. During brief comments to reporters, Castro de Guevara expressed relief her son’s remains were finally retrieved, although she lamented his death.

“The objective was reached today, but it wasn’t what I wanted — bringing him home alive,” she said.

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