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Colombian Rebels Turn Over Eight Hostages to Red Cross

The International Red Cross says Colombian FARC rebels have released eight people who were kidnapped last week while traveling on the country's northwestern jungle rivers.

A statement issued Thursday says the hostages were freed Wednesday in a rural area of Colombia's Antioquia department province after "confidential dialogue" between the parties concerned. Officials also reaffirmed the Red Cross's neutrality in Colombia's conflict.

On July 2, a team of Colombian military personnel - posing as members of a fake humanitarian aid group - tricked the FARC into handing over 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans.

But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe later acknowledged that his military used the Red Cross symbol in the rescue mission. His government later apologized to the Red Cross, which said it was not involved in the hostage rescue and was not aware of plans to carry it out.

President Uribe said one member of the rescue team wore a vest with the Red Cross emblem, but that it was because the person was nervous about the operation.

Use of the Red Cross symbol for a military operations violates the Geneva Conventions because it could damage the relief organization's reputation for neutrality in conflicts and put humanitarian workers at risk in war zones.

The Red Cross says its symbol must be respected in all circumstances and that its misuse is prohibited.

The Red Cross says that as a neutral and impartial organization, it must enjoy the trust of all the parties to Colombia's conflict to be able to carry out its humanitarian work.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.