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Monday, 24 April, 2000, 01:09 GMT 02:09 UK
Rebels free Colombian soccer star
Colombian rebels
Kidnappings for ransom are common in Colombia
Leftist guerrillas in Colombia have released an international football star, Andres "Pinta" Estrada, whom they kidnapped on Friday.

Estrada, 33, a midfield player for national champions Atletico Nacional, arrived at his home in the northeastern city of Medellin after his release.

"The kidnappers said it had been a mistake," he told reporters.


Andres Estrada
Andres Estrada plays for Medellin's Atletico Nacional team

The player's mother is reported to have told a radio station that the rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) released him near the town in the Antioquia region where he was seized. She would not say whether a ransom had been paid or not.

Estrada said he had been treated well but had been unable to sleep since his abduction.

Mass kidnap

In another development, Colombia's third largest guerrilla group - the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) - seized between 10 and 14 people at a roadblock some 200 kilometres (124 miles) south of the capital, Bogota.

Officials said the rebels blocked a road for two hours using a tractor. They stopped a number of buses and cars.

Mass abductions are often carried out over holiday weekends, when many people in the country are travelling long distances home.

It is the latest in a series of sporadic actions carried out by the EPL, which is the country's smallest rebel group, with several hundred members.

Ransom

Like Colombia's other larger guerrilla groups, the EPL relies on kidnapping for ransom as an important source of income.

The BBC's James Reynolds reports that kidnapping at roadblocks has become so common that Colombians have even come up with a name for the practice - "miraculous fishing trip".

The phrase is meant to explain the rebels' method of stopping traffic and trawling through the occupants of the waiting vehicles to see if there is anyone rich enough to kidnap for ransom.

Nearly 3,000 people were kidnapped in Colombia last year, up by about a third from 1998 levels.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Americas
Colombian rebels kidnap motorists
24 Dec 99 | Americas
Colombia 'kidnap capital of world'
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