Bogota : An armed rebel group in Colombia has said it was prepared to return the remains of 11 hostages – held for more than five years – if the southwestern region was demilitarised, the Spanish news agency EFE said.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's (FARC) spokesman Raul Reyes conveyed the message through a letter sent to Fabiola Perdomo, the widow of Valle del Cauca provincial legislator Juan Carlos Narvaez.
Narvaez, speaker of the Valle del Cauca assembly when a FARC squad disguised as police abducted 12 lawmakers in April 2002, was one of the 11 men killed on June 18 in what the FARC says was crossfire resulting from an attack on a rebel camp by an unidentified armed unit.
The Colombian government, however, rejected the FARC account, accusing the rebels of simply executing the hostages "in a vile manner".
A former cabinet minister Alvaro Leiva, who has acted in the past as a mediator between the government and the FARC, also received the copy of the letter.
The withdrawal of troops, Reyes said, is the "indispensable prerequisite for starting the meetings between spokespersons from both sides with the goal of avoiding further fatalities caused by the policy of violent rescues ordered by the president".