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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
Rebels release Colombian bishop
Bishop Misael Vacca Ramirez. Archive picture
The bishop's abduction had sparked angry protests
A Roman Catholic bishop abducted by left-wing rebels in Colombia has told local television he has been set free.

Speaking from a town near where he was abducted, Misael Vacca Ramirez said: "I am here in Morcote, I am fine."

The bishop of Yopal was seized in the area north-east of Bogota by the National Liberation Army guerrilla group (ELN), church leaders had said.

The rebels had earlier assured other priests the bishop would soon be freed with a message for the government.

The kidnapping prompted a plea for his release from the Vatican and condemnation from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Police and troops were ordered to launch a rescue operation to release the bishop.

"Kidnapping is indefensible. He must be rescued, and I hope that he quickly regains his freedom," Mr Uribe had told reporters.

Last month the government offered to stop operations against the ELN if the groups called a ceasefire.

ELN leaders have been trying to find common ground recently for peace talks with the government.

The Marxist rebel group is thought to have up to 5,000 members.

It is small in comparison with Colombia's most powerful rebels - the 15,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

Colombia offers rebels ceasefire
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25 Nov 03  |  Americas

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