Colombia's ELN rebels free captive businessman

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Bogota (AFP)

Colombia's National Liberation Army, which has been fighting the government for more than five decades, on Saturday freed a businessman it had held since March.

The ELN released Octavio Figueroa in a rural part of eastern Colombia.

"My father was released by the ELN around midday in La Guajira, a village near Maicao, close to Venezuela," Armando Figueroa, son of the businessman abducted March 16, told AFP.

The leftist ELN confirmed it was holding Figueroa on October 28.

Armando Figueroa said his father, who was released after an undisclosed ransom was paid, was "physically worn out but very happy to be with his family."

The elder Figueroa said he did not eat every day, and was treated cruelly.

"He burst into tears saying 'thank God I am out of that torture,'" the son added.

It is the latest blow to President Juan Manuel Santos's efforts to open peace talks with the ELN.

Proposed talks have stalled even as the government begins implementing a peace deal with a larger rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Both leftist guerrilla armies launched a war against the government in the 1960s, unleashing a messy, multi-sided conflict that has killed more than 260,000 people.

The ELN and the government have agreed in principle to open peace talks. But they broke down just as they were due to open in October when the rebels failed to release an ex-congressman they are holding hostage.