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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Farc hostage escapes in Colombia
Jhon Frank Pinchao shows a chain similar to the one rebels tightened around his neck
Mr Pinchao was seized by the Farc in 1998
A Colombian policeman held hostage by left-wing Farc rebels for nearly nine years has escaped his captors.

Jhon Frank Pinchao said he spent 17 days lost in the jungle before he was found by an army patrol on Wednesday.

He said he was held in a camp with three US intelligence agents and Colombia's former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Mr Pinchao was one of about 60 hostages held by the Farc for a possible prisoner exchange with the government.

Hostage story

"I hope it's not my fault that the others face difficulties now," Mr Pinchao told reporters at a news conference in Bogota.

Farc rebels. File photo
Farc is Colombia's largest rebel group with about 16,000 fighters

He said he had been waiting for an opportunity to escape for eight-and-a-half years and when his captors finally let down their guard he seized the chance.

He told how he walked, swam and crawled through the Amazon jungle in the eastern province of Vaupes for days before he stumbled on the army patrol.

Mr Pinchao was seized by the Farc - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - when the rebels attacked the town of Mitu in 1998.

Describing his time in captivity, Mr Pinchao said that the Farc "were moving us from one camp to another every few months".


He said that he was held with the three US nationals and Ms Betancourt.

"The last time I saw them was 28 April," he said.

Ms Betancourt, who has dual Colombian-French nationality, was seized in February 2002 while campaigning for president in southern Colombia.

The three Americans were captured in February 2003 after their plane came down during a surveillance mission in the south of the country.

The Farc have said they will not release some 60 hostages they hold until hundreds of their comrades held in Colombia's prisons are freed

The government has said it is prepared to release guerrillas, but wants the rebels to follow suit.

Farc rebels insist they are ready to negotiate so long as a demilitarised zone is given to them as a venue for peace talks, something President Alvaro Uribe has ruled out, the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia says.

Farc, the country's largest rebel group, has been fighting the government for more than four decades.

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