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German Hostage Freed in Colombia

November 16, 1998

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A German rancher held hostage for five months by leftist rebels has been freed after humanitarian pleas by a bishop, authorities confirmed Monday.

Rene Peter Moeller was released Saturday by the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in Carmen de Bolivar, 340 miles north of the capital Bogota.

Authorities said Moeller, who is married to a Colombian, was in poor health, but gave no details on his condition.

Ecuadoran Bishop Emilio Stehle, who was born in Germany, helped obtain Moeller’s release, a spokesman for the government’s anti-kidnapping office told The Associated Press.

Stehle has played a prominent role in peace discussions between Colombia’s civilian leaders and the other leading rebel group, the National Liberation Army.

Neither the anti-kidnapping office or the German embassy in the capital, Bogota, would confirm press reports that the rebels were paid a $316,000 ransom for Moeller’s release.

Colombia leads the world in kidnappings, with 1,122 through October this year, according to government figures.

Most are carried out by the two main rebel groups, who frequently nab their victims at roadblocks on rural highways. Foreigners are often the targets because they usually garner the highest ransoms.

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