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Chinese hostages freed in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia: Four Chinese oil company employees who had been held hostage since June 2011, allegedly by Colombia’s FARC rebels, have been freed in southern Colombia, their embassy said yesterday.
“They released the four last night in the department of Caqueta. They are in good spirits,” said the spokesman of China’s Embassy in Bogota.
The official said the identity of the kidnappers was still unknown. He confirmed that the four hostages — three engineers and a translator — are Chinese citizens.
The head of Colombia’s national police also confirmed the release.
“It was a humanitarian operation orchestrated by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Chinese authorities,” Jose Roberto Leon Riano told reporters.
The Red Cross and the Chinese authorities “asked the Colombian government for humanitarian assistance, which it provided,” Riano added, without giving details of the government’s role.
Although he did not say who handed over hostages on Wednesday, the police chief repeated government assertions that the FARC was behind the kidnapping.
“From the moment of the kidnapping, from intelligence information, it was known that the FARC were the ones with the Chinese citizens,” he said.
The hostages were working for the Emerald Energy oil company, a British-based subsidiary of China’s Sinochem Group. Their Colombian driver was also seized, but released several hours later.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Latin America’s largest rebel group, has just begun peace talks with the government aimed at ending their decades-long conflict.
Earlier this year the group announced would stop abducting civilians, whose ransoms had helped fund the group’s activities. In early April, FARC rebels freed the last ten policemen and soldiers they were holding.
But victims’ associations in Colombia claim the rebels still hold a number of captives.