A former Colombian Congressman kidnapped more than eight years ago by FARC guerrillas has escaped through the jungle with one of his captors.
Oscar Lizcano marched for three days with his renegade jailer before reaching an army post.
Exhausted, his voice weak after being forbidden to talk during much of his captivity, the 63-year-old paid tribute to the man who deserted FARC and risked his own life to help him to safety.
“I have to thank the person who had the courage and the guts to make the decision to escape, taking me, a very sick old man. But of course I have to also thank the national politics under the guidance of the President,” he said.
He was referring to Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe who has promised immunity to rebels who surrender, bringing hostages with them.
The FARC deserter known as Isaza will be paid a bounty and allowed to live in France with his companion.
The dramatic escape to freedom follows the rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three Americans and other hostages, in a military operation in July.
It is another blow to the rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, once a powerful insurgency.
Colombia has received billion of dollars in US aid to combat FARC and tackle the cocaine trade which funds the rebel movement.
The group has lost three of its leaders this year and hundreds of once loyal fighters are said to be abandoning the cause as the army steps up counter-insurgency operations.