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Colombia : ICRC forwards Red Cross messages for Avianca hostages

03-06-1999 News Release 99/22

On 28 May a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) met representatives of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the countryside around San Pablo, in the northern Colombian department   of Bolivar. The ICRC team delivered clothing, medicines and Red Cross messages from relatives of the hostages. The ELN representatives likewise handed over Red Cross messages from the hostages; these were delivered to their families the following day.

The ELN is still holding 25 passengers from the Avianca Fokker aircraft hijacked on 12 April when en route from Bucaramanga to Bogotá.

On the basis of reports in various Colombian newspapers that the hostages would be set free on 28 May, a number of hostage families had organized parties to celebrate the supposed release. However, the reports turned out to be mere rumours. The ICRC regrets that competition among the news media led to the publication of unsubstantiated information which was not checked with the ICRC delegation, as this caused suffering among those concerned.

The ICRC is in regular contact with the ELN on the ground and stands ready to arrange the release of those still held hostage.