Colombia Rebels Release Two Hostages: Red Cross

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staff
Leftist Colombian guerrillas released two women they had held captive for nearly three weeks in the east of the country, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross told AFP.

Leftist Colombian guerrillas have released two women they had held captive for nearly three weeks

Leftist Colombian guerrillas released two women they had held captive for nearly three weeks in the east of the country, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross told AFP.

"We can confirm the two women were handed over Monday in a rural area of Fortul municipality... to delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic Church," said spokeswoman Maria Cristina Rivera.

"The two women are in good health," Rivera said, adding that they were to be taken to the town of Saravena in Arauca department, where they live, and from where they were kidnapped on July 24 by armed men.

The women were handed over by suspected members of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group.

One of the women freed is environmental engineer Gina Uribe, who works for Itansuca, a subsidiary of Canada's SNC Lavalin Group, which is working on the $4.2 billion Bicentenario oil pipeline project in eastern Colombia.

The other hostage was Elida Parra, a radio journalist who was working for local consulting company Concol, which is also working on the pipeline project.

The Red Cross issued a statement shortly after the release, saying, "From the day they were taken by ELN, we were awaiting the fate of Elida and Gina, and we kept in constant contact with their families."

"Today, we are pleased to announce their release and facilitate their reunion with their families," read the statement quoting the director of the local ICRC office, Daniel Littlejohn-Carrillo.

The ELN took responsibility for abducting the women on July 29 in a statement to their families.

On August 2, Uribe and Parra made a plea for their release in a video address sent to several Colombian television stations.

The ELN has about 2,500 fighters, according to government figures.

Founded in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is the oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group in the country, with some 9,200 fighters.

Arauca, an important oil-producing region, is a FARC and ELN stronghold.