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Rebels Admit Colombia Kidnapping

July 19, 2001

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Leftist guerrillas admitted abducting a former governor from a U.N. vehicle in Colombia and demanded Thursday that U.N. officials explain why they were traveling with a ``widely known″ paramilitary collaborator.

The rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, issued a statement acknowledging it was holding former Meta state governor Alan Jara, grabbed on Sunday from a vehicle carrying him and U.N. officials from a peace ceremony in the state.

But the 16,000-strong rebel group said the kidnapping was justified.

It accused Jara of being the ``intellectual author″ of numerous assassinations of leftist politicians and popular leaders by rightist paramilitaries working with the military.

The United Nations should ``explain to the Colombian people and the international community why this man was traveling under its protection, placing in question its recognized neutrality,″ said the FARC statement.

Jara will be subjected to a ``popular trial″ to determine his responsibility in the killings, the FARC statement added.

U.N. officials in Bogota had no immediate comment. The organization condemned the kidnapping on Monday and said it could affect the United Nations’ ability to operate in the South American country.

The abduction occurred just outside a Switzerland-sized FARC enclave in Meta and neighboring Caqueta state that the government ceded to the guerrillas as part of peace talks.

Jara, 44, a former two-term congressman from the opposition Liberal Party, served as Meta’s elected governor between 1998 and 2000. He is reportedly planning to run for congress in elections scheduled for March.

The FARC is also suspected in last month’s kidnapping of Liberal Party Sen. Eladio Perez and the assassination in December of a Caqueta congressman from the same party. The party has a strong presence in the southern areas where the FARC is waging its 37-year war.

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