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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Colombia's 'chief kidnapper' held
(Left-right) Mark Henderson, Beni Daniel, Erez Altawil, Ortaz Ohayon and Ido Yosef Guy raise their arms after being freed by rebels
The final five hostages were freed in December
A Colombian paramilitary leader accused of kidnapping eight tourists last year has been arrested, police say.

Jose Celestino Chamorro is allegedly a regional leader of the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN).

Judicial police chief Col Oscar Naranjo said Mr Chamorro ordered the abduction of four Israelis, two Britons, a German and a Spaniard on 12 September, 2003.

Briton Matthew Scott, 19, escaped within days of his capture. The others were later released.

We're talking about an individual with more than 22 years at the service of terrorism
Col Oscar Naranjo
Mr Chamorro, better known as Parmenio, was seized in the northern region of La Guajira, on the border with Venezuela, said Mr Naranjo.

Seized at gunpoint

Three other suspects were arrested at the same time, he said.

"We're talking about an individual with more than 22 years at the service of terrorism," said Mr Naranjo, quoted by the AFP news agency.

He said Mr Chamorro was behind abductions and banditry throughout the region.

The Western hostages were seized at gunpoint in September last year, near the spectacular 2,500-year-old Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) Indian ruins.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
Uribe has made fighting rebels his priority
Mr Scott escaped, and two others, Asier Huegun of Spain and Reinhilt Weigel of Germany, were released on 24 November.

Briton Mark Henderson and Israelis Beni Daniel, Ortaz Ohayon, Ido Guy and Erez Altawil were finally freed on 22 December, after mediation by the Catholic Church.

The ELN is one of several groups blamed for Colombia's 3,000 kidnappings a year, the government says.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe has attempted to crack down on the rebels.

In July it claimed the measures were working, and that the number of hostages taken in the first six months of this year had dropped by a half compared with the same period in 2003.


SEE ALSO:
Kidnappings 'halved' in Colombia
22 Jul 04  |  Americas
'Christmas release' for hostages
20 Dec 03  |  England
Mediators plea for Colombia truce
18 Dec 03  |  Americas
Rebels make new release promise
16 Dec 03  |  North Yorkshire
Colombia rebels free two hostages
25 Nov 03  |  Americas
Colombia kidnap demand met
23 Nov 03  |  Americas
Colombia hostages shown on video
12 Nov 03  |  Americas


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