Colombia: October 4, 1999


Fifteen members of the Marxist Popular Liberation Army (EPL) took about fifty people hostage by stopping busses near the Venezuelan border. The army was quickly in pursuit, and eventually caught up with the guerillas, who had already released most of their hostages. A firefight with the army killed one guerilla and wounded two hostages. The rest of the guerillas escaped, but a large cache of weapons and ammunition was captured. Most of the EPL gave up violence in 1991 and formed a political party. But some 500 remained loyal to their imprisoned leader and continued to fight. Despite their small number, the EPL accounted for sixteen percent of the 1,300 kidnappings (mostly for ransom) in 1998. Kidnapping has always been a major source of income for Colombian guerilla groups. In the past five years, 5,877 people have been kidnapped, mostly by left wing guerillas or right wing militias. About half the world's kidnappings in the world take place in Colombia. Currently, guerilla and criminal groups hold 1,500 hostages, including 150 foreigners. Many kidnapping victims are released without payment of ransom, usually because they have become sick or, as with children, because they are too much trouble to hold captive. 




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