Sat, 24 Nov 2012 12:14:33 GMT

Four kidnapped Chinese released by FARC rebels in Colombia

From K J M Varma
Beijing, Nov 23 (PTI) Four Chinese hostages who were kidnapped in Colombia by a guerrilla group last year have been released, officials said.

The four, whose names are not identified, were kidnapped by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Cagueta Department in southern Colombia on June 8, 2011.

All are in good health, though one was in a wheelchair and will receive additional physical checkups in the capital Bogota, Chinese state run Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese embassy officials as saying in Colombia.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the release of the hostages, saying he had spoken with Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan, "and I want to celebrate the release of the four Chinese nationals. Kidnapping is something that should not happen again ever."
They were released on Wednesday night and were flown to Bogota yesterday on a plane chartered by the Chinese embassy.
Ambassador Wang said they would be flown to China today.

The four hostages were turned over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by "unidentified men" dressed in civilian clothes in a district of San Vicente known as Los Pozos, said Caqueta Police Chief Col Carlos Vargas.

Red Cross delegation head Jordi Raich said one of the released captives has "mobility problems," but the other three are generally fine.

The four Chinese hostages worked for Emerald Energy oil company, a subsidiary of the Chinese firm Sinochem, but headquartered in London. The day they were kidnapped, they were travelling by highway from San Vicente accompanied by a Colombian driver.

At least seven people who were heavily armed forced them to stop and took them captive, releasing the driver, who reported the kidnapping, hours later.

FARC, a rebel group, is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping, though FARC maintains that it stopped kidnapping, for political or economic motives, more than a year ago, and holds no more hostages.

No ransom was ever demanded for the Chinese captives, the ambassador told reporters.

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