Four Indigenous children wandering in Colombia's Amazon forest since May 1 following a plane crash have been found alive, President Gustavo Petro said.
"A joy for the whole country! The 4 children who were lost 40 days ago in the Colombian jungle were found alive," Petro wrote on Twitter on Friday, where he posted a photograph of several military and Indigenous people who participated in the operation to locate and rescue the siblings.
The children were alone when searchers found them and are now receiving medical attention, Petro told reporters upon his return to Bogota from Cuba, where he signed a ceasefire agreement with representatives of the National Liberation Army rebel group.
The president said the youngsters are an "example of survival" and predicted their saga "will remain in history."
The children — aged 13, nine, four and one — have been lost in the jungle since the light aircraft crash in Colombia's southeast last month claimed the lives of the three adults on board: their mother Magdalena Mucutui Valencia, the pilot, and an Indigenous leader.
The bodies of the adults were found with the plane wreck, but a massive search by 160 soldiers and 70 Indigenous people with intimate knowledge of the jungle had been under way ever since for the youngsters — Lesly (13), Soleiny (9), Tien Noriel (4) and baby Cristin.
The plane — a Cessna 206 — was on a route between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, when it issued a mayday alert due to engine failure in the early hours of May 1.
During the rescue mission, several clues to the children's continued survival were found, including a baby's bottle, scissors, hair ties, shoes, clothing and even a footprint in the mud.
The discovery of a rudimentary shelter, some half-eaten fruit and a fresh footprint led the Colombian military to announce more than a week ago that it was getting "very close" to the children.
Grandfather was sure they will survive
Their grandfather Fidencio Valencia had said the children have intelligence and know-how to survive.
The eldest of the four siblings "is very intelligent, very active, strong," Valencia told the AFP news agency last month.
Being Indigenous is an advantage, said Valencia, a member of the Witoto community.
"You know some fruits, some plants, some leaves, something that can be useful. There is knowledge," he added.
Valencia has been urging the rescuers to "not give up because the children are alive."
Minutes after starting the 350-kilometre journey, the pilot reported problems with the engine, and the plane disappeared from the radars.
Between May 15 and 16, soldiers found the bodies of the three adults and the plane's debris stuck vertically in the thick vegetation, its nose destroyed.
The military during the operation dropped leaflets, including survival tips, food parcels and bottled water for the children, known for living in harmony with the jungle.
Huitoto children learn hunting, fishing and gathering and the kids' grandfather, Valencia, told AFP the children are well acquainted with the jungle.