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Apology after Red Cross symbol worn by rescuer

The Colombian government has apologized to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) after the organisation's insignia was worn during a hostage rescue.

This content was published on July 16, 2008 - 20:12

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said on Wednesday that a member of the military mission that tricked Colombian rebels into freeing 15 hostages on July 2 had been wearing the insignia.

"An officer mistakenly and contrary to orders ... put a piece of cloth on his vest that carried the symbol of the International Committee of the Red Cross," he said in a speech in Bogota.

The cloth is visible in a video of the mission that was officially released. Use of the symbol in such a military operation violates the Geneva Conventions that protect the ICRC's reputation for neutrality in conflicts.

Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos and top generals met with the ICRC on Wednesday to offer an explanation.

The ICRC said it was "very important" Colombia had admitted the misuse of the symbol. "Respect for the emblem is crucial in order for the ICRC to aid people affected by conflicts in Colombia or elsewhere," said a spokesman.

Colombian military intelligence agents managed to rescue the hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American military contractors, by posing as members of a fake international humanitarian group.

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