Church in Colombia to Mediate in Kidnappings

BOGOTA, Colombia, OCT. 1, 2003 ( Catholic Church representatives, at the request of the government, will mediate for the release of seven foreigners kidnapped by leftist guerrillas.

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«The Church expresses its willingness to collaborate with a way out that will enable the kidnapped to regain their freedom alive and soon,» said Father Darío Echeverry, the secretary-general of the National Conciliation Commission.

Rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) kidnapped four Israelis, a Briton, a Spaniard and a German on Sept. 12. The kidnappings took place when the foreigners were visiting Colombia’s Lost City, Indian ruins of the Tayrona culture, in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, about 950 kilometers (590 miles) north of Bogota.

Father Echeverry’s statement was published in response to an affirmation of Luis Carlos Restrepo, High Commissioner for Peace, who revealed that President Alvaro Uribe’s government asked the Church «to initiate a humanitarian endeavor for the purpose of seeking the release of kidnapped foreigners controlled by the ELN.»

The government requested the Church’s mediation shortly after the ELN claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the foreigners, and said it was prepared to find a «bloodless way out.»

There were 2,986 abductions in 2002. Most kidnappings were carried out by the guerrillas looking for ransom.

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