ad info




[an error occurred while processing this directive]
CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
   africa
   americas
   asianow
   europe
   middle east
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:

 

World - Americas

Colombian rebels suspend hostage release

Graphic

June 17, 1999
Web posted at: 11:17 p.m. EDT (0317 GMT)

CALI, Colombia (CNN) -- Marxist rebels said Thursday that they suspended the planned release of hostages from a domestic airliner hijacked over Colombia 67 days ago because of fighting in the area where the captives were set to be freed.

They blamed the suspension on an alleged clash between guerrillas and soldiers in the same region of northern Bolivar province that the government agreed to demilitarize to pave the way for the hostage handover.

Crack counterinsurgency troops wounded at least one National Liberation Army (ELN) fighter in the clash, which occurred at about midday on Thursday near the village of Monterrey, according to a regional ELN commander.

Colombian Army commander Gen. Jorge Enrique Mora Rangel denied that his men engaged in any combat in the demilitarized zone, saying troops suspended all operations in the area after dusk on Wednesday in strict compliance with government orders.

Twenty-four people remain in ELN hands from the April 12 hijack of an Avianca plane over northeast Colombia.

On Tuesday, the ELN scored a publicity coup with the release of 33 hostages from the mass abduction of worshippers in a Cali church on May 30.

With Tuesday's release, the ELN repeated demands that it be given control of a section of the country and insisted on the initiation of peace talks.

Colombia has granted talks with the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and has given FARC autonomy over a Switzerland-sized section of the country since November.

The government has so far refused to grant either concession to the ELN.

"It is clear that the government does not want a political solution," said ELN commander Lilana Becerra. "They want to destroy the insurgency through war."

The 5,000 member ELN, which was led by a defrocked Spanish priest until last year, seized nearly 160 people when its commandos swept down on La Maria church in Cali, carrying them off to a mountainous rain forest.

It still holds an estimated 34 captives from that incident.

World's highest kidnap rate

With the world's highest kidnapping rate and a rebellion that has taken 35,000 lives over the past decade, Colombian President Andres Pastrana is under enormous pressure to end South America's longest running civil war.

"Pastrana has a mandate to promote a peaceful solution for Colombia," said Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. "But there's an important part of the population that is becoming impatient."

Pastrana has repeatedly said he will not give in to what he calls blackmail from the ELN. His concessions to the FARC brought a major political crisis when Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Lloreda resigned in protest.

"There have been abuses against the civilian population, and (FARC) is working to strengthen its forces rather than to reach peace," Lloreda said.

Pastrana has said he will talk with the ELN if it frees the hostages it still holds from the Cali kidnapping.

But with more than 2,600 kidnappings in Colombia last year, many in the country are not waiting for a solution. Government reports have shown Colombians continue to leave their country in unprecedented numbers.

Correspondent Frida Ghitis and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Colombian rebels release 33 hostages taken from church
June 16, 1999
Paramilitary terror throws corner of Colombia into turmoil
June 14, 1999
Spree of rebel violence pressures Colombia's leader
June 10, 1999
Pastrana returns to Colombia as hostage estimate rises
June 1, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Presidency of Colombia
U.S. Department of State, Official Web Site
Amnesty International
Colombia General Information
National Liberation Army (ELN)--Colombia
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (In Spanish)
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

 LATEST HEADLINES:
SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.