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Friday, 24 December, 1999, 04:37 GMT
Colombia 'kidnap capital of world'

Colombian soldiers The army has been hit hard by rebel attacks


By the BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Colombia

The Colombian army has released the figures for kidnapping over 1999, again confirming Colombia's position as the kidnap capital of the world.

The report stated that 2,787 people were kidnapped in Colombia this year, the highest figure on record, smashing last year's high of 2,600.

The main perpetrators were rebel armies, who use kidnapping for ransom as a means of funding their war against the state.

The military report estimated they had grossed $632m in ransom payments over the last five years.

Rise of the mass abduction

This year saw a new twist in the kidnapping nightmare as Colombia's second rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, staged a series of mass abductions to pressure the government into embarking on peace talks, similar to those currently now in progress with the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Three operations by the ELN, the hijacking of a domestic airliner, the abduction of an entire church congregation and the kidnapping of an angling club out fishing, showed Colombians they were not safe anywhere, neither by sea, land or in the air.

Most of the hostages from these kidnappings have been released as negotiations between the government and the ELN have progressed.

Peace talks are scheduled to start in the New Year, so the ELN achieved its aims with the mass abduction.

There is currently one Briton being held by guerrillas, Alistair Taylor, who was working for the oil giant, BP Amoco, was kidnapped in August.

Authorities have not revealed what ransom is being demanded for his release, but have admitted that negotiations are under way

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See also:
23 Dec 99 |  Americas
Colombia's rebels ready for Y2K
20 Sep 99 |  Americas
Kidnapped Briton 'alive and well'
08 Dec 99 |  Americas
Colombia unveils new anti-rebel force
29 Nov 99 |  Americas
Journalists killed in Colombia
20 Dec 99 |  Americas
Colombia truce follows Christmas card offensive

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