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Colombia Rescues Two Kidnap Victims

July 9, 2002

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BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Authorities frustrated the kidnapping of two family members of the president-elect’s wife Monday, but the future first lady’s aunt was seriously injured in the rescue.

Members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN took Clara Elia Mora, 84, the aunt of future first lady Lina Moreno, along with Moreno’s cousin, Clara Elena Moreno, from a family ranch near the town of Caldas, in northwest Colombia early Monday, police said.

``They were being taken towards the mountains and ... in that area they were rescued,″ Gen. Leonardo Gallego, chief of police in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city.

Authorities believed the attempted kidnapping was not political, but rather an effort to extort the family. President-elect Alvaro Uribe, set to take office on Aug. 7, has vowed to take a hard line with leftist rebels. However, Colombia has the highest kidnapping rate in the world, and the rebels, along with common criminals, kidnap hundreds of wealthy citizens every year in order to obtain ransoms from their families.

During the rescue, Mora was shot in the chest, but was treated in a local hospital and expected to recover, authorities said.

There was no immediate comment from Uribe or his wife.

Earlier Monday, authorities arrested the alleged leader of a rebel band suspected in the dramatic kidnapping of 12 local politicians from a provincial parliament in April.

Luis Alfredo Prada and four other alleged rebels were arrested Monday in Cali, where the April 11 kidnapping took place.

Members of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, disguised themselves as bomb squad members and pretended to rescue the local legislators during a bomb scare. While the local press filmed the scare, the rebels rushed past police and drove away with their unwitting hostages.

By the time authorities realized the trick, the rebels had fled Cali for mountain hide-outs. The FARC claimed responsibility, saying it would trade the assemblymen for imprisoned rebels.

``When (Prada) was captured, he was planning another massive kidnapping,″ national police chief Luis Ernesto Gilibert told reporters at a news conference.

The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel army, has been trying to force the government back into peace talks in order to push the issue of a prisoner exchange.

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