Colombia: FARC hostage escapes

Colombian National Police officer Jhon Frank Pinchao, held hostage by the FARC guerillas for nearly nine years, escaped his captors and spent 17 days lost in the jungle of Vaupes department before he was found by an army patrol on May 16. He said he was held in a camp with three US intelligence agents and Colombia’s former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Pinchao was one of about 60 hostages held by the FARC in demand of a prisoner exchange with the government.

Pinchao was seized by the FARC when the rebels attacked the town of Mitu in 1998. He said the guerillas “were moving us from one camp to another every few months,” and that he had last seen Betancourt and the US intelligence agents April 28. Betancourt, who has dual Colombian-French nationality, was seized in February 2002 while campaigning for president. The three US agents were siezed in February 2003 after their plane came down during a surveillance mission. The FARC says they will not free the approximately 60 hostages they hold until hundreds of their comrades held in Colombia’s prisons are released. (BBC, May 17)

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