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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 04:47 GMT
Child kidnappings mount in Colombia
A Colombian child and a Red Cross worker
The kidnappers are targeting children

A Colombian group which monitors kidnappings says there has been a rise in the number of children being abducted.

The report by Colombia's anti-kidnapping NGO, Free Country, shows last year's kidnappings were less than those of 2001, but only just, with an abduction being registered every three hours.

But 2002 saw a new twist in this sick industry in human beings - the taking of children.

There was more than one kidnapped every day last year and the reasons are clear: parents will not haggle, will not delay paying a ransom when it is their children's lives that are at stake.

ELN rebels
Rebels use ransoms to fund war
The kidnapping industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The main perpetrators are the country's Marxist rebels which use the ransom to fund their 39-year war on the state.

But in the chaos of the civil conflict innumerable freelance kidnapping gangs have sprung up in the cities.

They identify and research kidnap victims then effect the abduction, often selling them on to the rebels.

One such band was broken up last year, known as "the baldies".

Many of its members were policemen.

'Successes'

One positive sign has been the increase in successful rescues by the security forces, now up to 20% of all abductions, as elite anti-kidnap units of the army and police dedicate themselves purely to fighting this scourge.

But the industry is still thriving and will continue to do so as long as more than 40% of the country remains in the hands of the warring factions.

And everyone knows what happens when ransoms are not paid.

Sixty two people died in captivity last year, among them children, for non-payment of ransom.


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24 Jan 03 | Americas
19 Jan 03 | Americas
19 Aug 02 | Americas
22 Aug 02 | Americas
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