Source AP ©

Colombian rebels to hand over bodies of 11 state lawmakers

Colombian rebels are offering to hand over the bodies of 11 state lawmakers killed last month in disputed circumstances.

The lawmakers had been held captive for five years when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, announced their deaths at the end of June, a 10 days after they were supposedly killed.

"We have received a request from the FARC and the green light from the Colombian government to use our good offices and services to recover the bodies of the lawmakers," said Yves Heller, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross. "We have not been given information on the date or place yet."

The families of the dead hostages welcomed the news.

"We hope that the Red Cross does its job as quickly as possible," said Fabiola Perdomo, widow of one of dead lawmakers. "We are desperate."

FARC rebels dressed as soldiers staged a daring daylight raid on a state legislature in the southwest city of Cali in April 2002, kidnapping 12 lawmakers.

The FARC said last month that 11 were killed in crossfire after an "unidentified military group" attacked the camp where they were being held. It said just one of the 12 survived because he wasn't with the others at the time of the attack.

The FARC said it would deliver the corpses to the families only when fighting in the zone where they were being kept diminished.

President Alvaro Uribe accused the FARC of murdering the 11 in cold blood, saying there were no military operations in the area on the day the lawmakers reportedly died. He said he would deliver the bodies - once recovered - to an international commission of forensic investigators to determine exactly how they were killed.

The deaths of the 11 prompted millions of Colombians to march through streets across the country Thursday to demand the immediate release of all those kidnapped and the return of the bodies.

The FARC holds around 50 hostages, including three U.S. defense contractors and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. It wants to exchange them for all imprisoned rebels.