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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 22:47 GMT
Reporters released in Guatemala
The freed reporters
The reporters say were forced to sleep outside during their ordeal
Former rightwing paramilitaries in Guatemala have freed four journalists they took hostage in a pay dispute.

The paramilitaries have been demanding compensation ever since they were disbanded in 1996 at the end of the central American's state's civil war.

The freed reporters - who work for a Guatemalan paper - expressed relief that the crisis had ended quickly.

A government negotiator said the rebels had agreed to release them after getting a promise they would be paid.

The government had signed a document to that effect, said Catalina Soberanis, head of a government organisation in charge of monitoring the country's peace process.

Members of the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols, which were set up in 1982 during the civil war, snatched two reporters for Prensa Libre newspaper on Sunday as they arrived in the town of La Libertad to cover a demonstration.

A further two PL staff were captured when they came in turn to report on the abductions and the fighters reportedly seized three civilians in addition, who were also released on Tuesday.

According to one of the reporters, Mario Linares, the number of paramilitaries holding him and the others swelled from about 300 to about 5,000.

"I feel very relieved because with these people we didn't know what could happen and I believed we were not going to get out of this," another of the hostages, photographer Emerson Diaz, told the Associated Press news agency.

In July 2002, paramilitaries protested across Guatemala to demand $2,500 per person for their services and there was further unrest earlier this year.

The government agreed to pay compensation but reduced the amount to $650, to be paid in three instalments.

Guatemala ex-paramilitaries riot
06 May 03  |  Americas
Timeline: Guatemala
11 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Guatemala
11 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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