25 November 2003
BOGOTA – The German and Spanish hostages released by Colombian rebels Monday arrived in the capital Bogota on Tuesday and prepared to fly to their homelands after more than 10 weeks in captivity.
Germany’s Reinhild Weigel and Asier Huegun Etxeberria from the Basque region of Spain were met in Bogota by representatives from their embassies. After a meeting with embassy officials, they were to fly home soon. Officials said both former hostages were in good physical condition.
Leftist rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) delivered the German woman and Spaniard to a humanitarian delegation on Monday.
Weigel, 24, said after her release in the northern part of the country that she held no grudge against Colombia despite the ten-week hostage ordeal. She added that the northern region of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where she was captured along with six other foreigners September 12, was a very pretty region.
The ELN abducted the foreign backpackers allegedly to call attention to human rights abuses in the northern Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region by their rivals, the rightwing paramilitaries. As a condition to free the hostages, it had demanded the Catholic Church and other international observers verify human rights conditions in the region.
Last week, ELN announced in a communique it would set free the German woman and Basque man. Still being held are a Briton and four Israelis. Another Briton among the original group managed to escape.
ELN is the smaller of two leftist guerrilla groups in Colombia which have been waging civil war in the country for nearly four decades.
Subject: German news