Colombia seizes videotapes of hostages

Colombian officials on Friday released recently-seized videotapes of rebel-held hostages.

Colombia seizes videotapes of hostages
Colombian officials on Friday released recently-seized videotapes of rebel-held hostages, among them three U.S. defense contractors and a former presidential candidate — the first images in years providing evidence the captives may be alive.

High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo said the tapes were confiscated after the arrest Thursday evening of three suspected urban members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the FARC.

The videotapes, which were played at a news conference without sound, showed an extremely gaunt Ingrid Betancourt, the former Colombian presidential candidate, apparently chained and in front of a jungle backdrop. In the silent images, Betancourt, who was kidnapped in 2002, has long hair and stares blankly at the ground.

The government said that the tapes carried the date for Betancourt of Oct. 24, 2007. The tape of the Americans carried the date of the Jan. 1, 2007. But a kidnapped Colombia soldier, who appeared on the same tape, said the recording was being made on Oct. 23.

The Americans, Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, were abducted by the FARC after their plane went down in Southern Colombia in 2003. Each American briefly stood alone on the screen, also against a jungle backdrop, looking haggard.

Restrepo said the five tapes also showed images of another 12 Colombians, mainly members of the security forces.

The FARC are offering to release these and other hostages in exchange for the freeing of hundreds of rebels from Colombian and U.S. prisons.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had been involved in trying to mediate a deal between the government and the rebels until last week when President Alvaro Uribe ended his role, saying Chavez had disobeyed a direct order in contacting the head of Colombia's army.

During his time as mediator, Chavez had demanded from the FARC so-called "proof of life" of the hostages.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Kasım 2007, 13:40
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