Colombia’s FARC rebel group says it has captured a US soldier and is willing to release him to prove its commitment to the current peace process.
In a statement, the rebels named the man as Kevin Scott Sutay and said he had been taken on 20 June in El Retorno in the southern Guaviare Department, reports the BBC.
The US has so far not commented on the claims.
Peace talks between the guerrillas and the Colombian government opened in November in the Cuban capital, Havana.
It is the fourth attempt at a negotiated peace deal since the
beginning of the conflict in the early 1960s.
The FARC statement said that for the American’s release the group wanted a humanitarian mission consisting of former senator Piedad Cordoba and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Despite the law that allows us to keep the soldier Kevin Scott as a prisoner of war, we have made a decision to release him as a gesture in keeping with the spirit of talks under way in Havana,” the statement said.
It added that the capture showed “active participation in the field of North American military men and mercenaries in counter-insurgency operatins under the guise of contractors”.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are thought to have some 8,000 fighters, down from about 16,000 in 2001.
The government estimates that 600,000 people have been killed since the conflict began with some three million more internally displaced by the fighting.
On Monday, FARC’s chief peace negotiator said the conflict was nearing its end.
Ivan Marquez, who is taking part in the talks in Cuba, called on left-wing parties and unions to join the effort to achieve peace.
The government wants to sign a peace accord by November.
But Marquez warned against rushing into a settlement.