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Colombia Rebels Free American Woman

April 24, 1998

LOS ALPES, Colombia (AP) _ Leftist rebels released an ailing American woman after a month’s captivity, but still hold two of her colleagues _ Americans who were grabbed while on a bird-watching tour.

Louise Augustine, a 63-year-old former nun and retired teacher from Chillicothe, Ill., was turned over by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, near this remote town 60 miles southeast of the capital, said Carlos Batallas, an International Red Cross representative.

Augustine was in good condition despite a fall during her captivity in which she injured her ribs, Batallas said.

Vito Candela, an Italian held with her in the rugged jungles south of the capital before being released April 15, said Augustine broke her ribs and hurt her hip in the fall.

FARC rebels are still holding Peter Shen of New York City and Todd Mark, a 32-year-old Continental Airlines flight attendant. The group was taken captive on March 23 at a rebel roadblock.

A fourth bird-watcher, Thomas Fiore of New York, was found April 2 by a television crew doing a report on the abductions. He says he escaped, but rebels insist they let him go.

It was not clear when Augustine would return to the United States.

FARC is the largest of several rebel bands fighting the government since the 1960s. In recent years, rebels have turned to kidnapping, extortion, and working for drug traffickers to finance their insurgency.

Foreigners are prize targets because they often fetch higher ransoms. It was not clear if a ransom was paid for Augustine.

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