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Colombia: Germans Acted as Ransom-Brokers in Rebel Kidnapping

November 18, 1996

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Two Germans acted as ransom-brokers in a rebel kidnapping that may have netted Colombian guerrillas as much as $1.5 million, a state governor said Monday.

Police arrested the two Germans on Sunday at the airport in the northwest city of Medellin as they allegedly tried to smuggle the kidnap victim aboard a flight to Venezuela.

Guerrillas abducted German Brigitte Schoene from her home near Medellin on Aug. 15, demanding millions of dollars in ransom. Schoene is the wife of the former representative for Colombia of BASF, a German chemical company.

Schoene, looking healthy at a news conference Monday, said her rebel captors handed her over to the Germans after a two-day march in the mountains.

```Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of here,‴ she quoted them as saying.

Gov. Alvaro Uribe of Antioquia state accused Silvia and Norbert Schroeder on Monday of illegally brokering a ransom of $1.2 million to $1.5 million to the rebel National Liberation Army.

``This type of payoff shouldn’t be made,″ said Uribe, who in the past has accused the German government of rewarding rebels by paying ransoms. ``What they’re doing is feeding the terrorist organizations that are destroying us.″

Police believe the ransom was delivered, but it was unclear who paid it.

After her arrest, Silvia Schroeder told local reporters she was on a peace mission. ``This country has been at war for many years. Germany is available to negotiate for peace,″ she said.

The German Embassy declined comment on whether its government played any role in resolving the kidnapping.

Germany previously denied earlier allegations by Uribe that it had paid the same rebel group $2 million in ransom to free a German and two other kidnapped Europeans this year.

Uribe said Monday that one of the two arrested Sunday had also handled the ransom in the earlier kidnapping.

Rebels and criminal gangs in Colombia collect hundreds of millions of dollars a year in kidnapping ransoms. Foreigners are choice targets because they often fetch more money.

The National Liberation Army _ which has thousands of fighters _ began as a leftist insurgency in the 1960s. The government labels the members common criminals.

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