Chinese hostages freed in Colombia

Updated 23 November 2012
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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.


Blast at election center in Afghan capital, at least six hurt

Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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Blast at election center in Afghan capital, at least six hurt

KABUL: An explosion apparently caused by a suicide bomber hit a voter registration center in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Sunday, causing casualties, with at least six people known to have been wounded, officials said.
The attack follows several weeks of relative quiet in Kabul and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told Tolo News television that the blast appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber and had caused casualties but there were no immediate details.
An official from the ministry of public health said ambulances returning from the site had brought at least six wounded into city hospitals but the final toll was not known.
Voter registration centers have been set up across Afghanistan in preparation for long-delayed parliamentary elections due to be held in October and there have been serious concerns that they could be targeted by attacks.
Sunday’s blast took place in Dasht-e Barchi, an area of western Kabul inhabited by many members of the mainly Shiite Hazara minority, which has been repeatedly hit by attacks claimed by Daesh.