Colombia's FARC guerrillas said Wednesday they have been holding two helicopter pilots forced to make an emergency landing two weeks ago in the southwestern province of Cauca and plan to turn the men over to the Red Cross.
In statement posted on its Web site, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, acknowledged abducting civilians Juan Carlos Alvarez and Alejandro de Jesus Ocampo after the chopper landed.
Alvarez and Ocampo were on board the Bell 206 L3 on July 10 when a mechanical failure forced them to execute an emergency landing on a soccer field in the town of Argelia.
Unidentified individuals set fire to the aircraft, owned by the Helifly firm, while the crew members were reported missing.
According to the FARC's statement, Alvarez and Ocampo will be turned over to a delegation comprising members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Francisco Isaias Cifuentes Human Rights Network of Southwestern Colombia.
"The date and place will be provided in due time," the statement read.
The helicopter that suffered the emergency "had been intensely flying over the mountainous area among the towns of Argelia, Guapi and Timbiqui," the FARC said.
It warned that any state-owned or private firm that intends to fly over, study or carry out work in regions with a rebel presence must "have the approval of the community that inhabits the area" and "inform the revolutionary insurgency of its activities," adding that "only then will its safety be guaranteed."
Cauca province has been the scene of recent protests by Nasa Indians, also known as the Paez, who have declared themselves in "permanent resistance" with the aim of expelling Colombian security forces and leftist guerrillas from their lands.
Intense fighting in Cauca between government forces and the FARC has driven more than 2,800 indigenous and mestizo people from their homes over the past several weeks.
The FARC has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s. EFE