FARC dissidents release UN hostage in Colombia

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FARC dissidents release UN hostage in Colombia

Bogota (AFP) - Dissident FARC rebels in Colombia have released unharmed a UN official whom they kidnapped in May, officials said on Wednesday.

"We are very grateful for the decision to release him unharmed. He is in good health," said the director of the UN Information Center in Bogota, Helene Papper, identifying the hostage as Colombian national Harley Lopez.

"We are currently making all the logistical arrangements to transfer him to Bogota."

The leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) formally completed a historic UN-supervised disarmament process on June 27 under a peace accord with the government.

But officials and FARC leaders say groups of fighters from the force who reject the peace deal have refused to lay down their arms and maintain links to drug trafficking. The government is treating them as common criminals now that the other FARC fighters have disarmed.

Lopez, who works for the UN Office on Crime and Drugs, was kidnapped on May 3 in the southeastern department of Guaviare while on a tour to promote replacing coca with legal crops.

An estimated 300 dissident guerrillas are believed to be active in Guaviare, Kyle Johnson, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, said after the kidnapping.

Colombia's defense ministry confirmed on Twitter that the hostage had contacted his UN bosses to inform them he had been released.

Colombia is the world's biggest producer of cocaine, with an output of 646 tonnes in 2015, according to the United Nations.

Under the peace deal, the FARC agreed to detach itself from the cocaine business that helped finance its five-decade-old armed struggle.