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Colombian rebels to continue taking prisoners in combat

Colombian rebels to continue taking prisoners in combatBogota, Jan 31 - The team representing the FARC guerrilla group in peace talks with the Colombian government said Wednesday that insurgents have the right to hold police and soldiers who are fall into their hands in combat.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is currently holding two police officers grabbed by rebel fighters last Friday in the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca.

"We reserve the right to capture as prisoners those members of the public force who have surrendered in combat. They are called prisoners of war and this phenomenon occurs in any conflict in the world," FARC negotiators said in a statement posted online.

The message also pointed out that in its February 2012 pledge to abandon kidnapping for ransom, the FARC included an exception for wealthy individuals - defined as anyone with a net worth of more than $1 million - who refuse to pay the "war tax" levied by the rebels.

The two officers seized by FARC fighters last Friday have been spotted alive and their approximate location is known to police intelligence, authorities say.

The FARC, which has battled a succession of Colombian government since the mid-1960s, once held dozens of police, soldiers and politicos they hoped to trade for jailed rebels.

But after 15 of the "exchangeables" were liberated in a rescue operation, the guerrillas embarked on a gradual process of releasing the rest in small groups and the last of those captives were freed in 2012. (IANS)