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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK
Colombian children rally against kidnapping
Bogota: at least 3,000 children marched through the streets
Bogota: at least 3,000 children marched in protest
By Jeremy McDermott in Colombia

Thousands of children have marched through the streets of Colombia's capital, Bogota, to demand an end to kidnapping.

At least 3,000 children took part in the march, along with parents and peace activists, protesting in particular against the recent trend of kidnapping children.

Colombia has for many years been the kidnap capital of the world, with an average of eight abductions every day.

It is an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars every year, practised mainly by Marxist rebels who have used the ransoms to fund their 36-year war against the state.

Minimum sentence

But as Colombians, particularly the rich, take better precautions to protect themselves, the kidnappers have turned to minors.

Out of almost 3,000 abductions last year, more than 200 were of children - a record high.

In March violence-hardened Colombians were horrified to hear of the case of a six-year-old boy who was murdered by his kidnappers because he recognised them - yet the abductors continued to demand a ransom for him months after his murder.

Phone taps led to the arrest of the abductors, who admitted they had suffocated the boy with a plastic bag.

To combat the plague of abductions, the government is currently working on legislation to introduce a 25-year minimum sentence for kidnapping.

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24 Dec 99 | Americas
Colombia 'kidnap capital of world'
05 Jan 00 | Americas
Bogota hostages released
04 Oct 99 | Americas
Colombian army free hostages
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