A helicopter took off Monday to pick up the first of a group of hostages to be released by leftist Colombian guerrillas, AFP journalists said.
The Brazilian air force Cougar helicopter left the Villavicencio airport some 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Bogota at 1530 for an undisclosed jungle location as part of the planned release.
The mission, delayed more than two hours because of bad weather, included members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and mediator Piedad Cordoba of Colombians for Peace.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had announced it would free 10 military hostages held in the jungle for at least 12 years in two stages on Monday and Wednesday.
Two Brazilian Air Force helicopters arrived in the city of Villavicencio for the mission.
The Cougar aircraft, on loan by neighboring Brazil, Sunday flew in members of a humanitarian commission that is to meet the hostages upon their release.
The Colombian military has suspended all operations in the area ahead of the anticipated release.
A group of family members and others, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala, were in Villavicencio to greet the hostages on their release.
A large sign was placed on the city's cathedral saying "We celebrate the return to life and liberty of our country's heroes."
Upon their release, the hostages were to arrive in Villavicencio, then sent to Bogota for medical attention.
The FARC, Latin America's last major insurgent movement, announced in February that it would release the six police officers and four soldiers it still holds and that it would end the practice of kidnapping for ransom.
But the plan later stalled and was pushed back to April. The FARC reaffirmed its commitment to release the prisoners in early March.
The FARC has continued, however, to clash with army forces.
Last week, Colombian troops killed at least 36 suspected FARC rebels and captured four in an army offensive in the east-central department of Meta, according to officials.© ANP/AFP