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Colombia: Release of 33 persons abducted by ELN

16-06-1999 News Release 99/24

Late on 15 June, 33 of some 70 people held for the last 17 days by the National Liberation Army (ELN) were released with the logistic support of the ICRC delegation in Colombia. The persons concerned were among those abducted while attending Mass at the church of  La María in Cali in the southern Valle department.

The release took place following complex negotiations between the government and the ELN. The latter requested on the one hand that a commission be set up comprising government bodies, representatives of the Church, political parties and the international community, and journalists, and on the other that the ICRC and the Colombian Red Cross take charge of the actual release operation.

The process began at about 6 p.m., when the hostages were transferred aboard buses marked with the red cross emblem from the place where they had been held to the small village of El Cedro in the south of the country. They were then taken to the Pascual Guerrero stadium in Cali, where they were reunited with their families.

Negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages taken at the La María church and those abducted following the hijacking of the Avianca aircraft in April are due to begin on 21June.

During their period of captivity in a cold, mountainous area, the ICRC provided the hostages with humanitarian assistance in the form of clothing, blankets and medicines.