4 Chinese Oil Workers Freed by Colombian Rebels
From The Boston Globe
By Cesar Garcia
Four Chinese oil workers have been freed in the same southern jungles where the country’s largest rebel group kidnapped them 17 months ago, police said Thursday. China’s ambassador said that no ransom was ever sought for the men.
The four Chinese nationals, three contractors and a translator, were the only foreigners known to still be held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Their release around midnight Wednesday to the International Red Cross comes three days after the FARC and Colombia’s government began peace talks in Cuba that were partially conditioned on the rebels halting extortive kidnapping. It led Colombia’s defense minister to call them ‘‘mendacious and traitorous’’ Thursday for having claimed in September to no longer hold kidnap victims.
The rebels announced in February that they were halting all kidnapping and they insist they hold no more captives, neither ‘‘political prisoners’’ nor ‘‘economic’’ hostages.
The FARC has been fighting successive Colombian governments for a half century and has used kidnapping for political leverage and as a financing source, at one point holding three U.S. military contractors as well as several dozen prominent Colombian politicians.
Asked whether a ransom was paid for the men’s release, Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan told reporters in Bogota that ‘‘a ransom was not even demanded.’’ He said no one ever claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
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