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Colombia Militia Frees Two Hostages

February 9, 1999

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A right-wing paramilitary group on Monday freed two of four human rights workers it kidnapped last month, officials said.

The two women from the Institute for People’s Empowerment _ Olga Rodas and Claudia Tamayo_ were handed over to the Red Cross about 300 miles north of Bogota in Cordoba State, said Red Cross spokesman Carlos Rios.

Two other rights workers remained in the hands of the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a national paramilitary umbrella group that admitted abducting the four on Jan. 28 in Medellin.

The paramilitary group had accused the rights workers of having ties to leftist rebels, a charge denied Monday by the institute.

``We’re all happy and content here, but we’re still waiting for them to hand over our other two colleagues,″ Ignacio Arango, a spokesman for the rights group, said in an interview with Radionet radio.

Human rights organizations and foreign governments attribute more than two-thirds of the thousands of political killings each year in Colombia to the landowner-backed paramilitary groups, which arose nearly two decades ago in response to rebel kidnappings and extortion.

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