Freed Hostages in Colombia
Welt am Sonntag No. 17, 23.04.2000
Jungle rebels kidnapped employees of an airline one year ago.
By Sabine Höher
Hamburg – The Colombian rebel organisation ELN has this week released eight of the hostages taken during the hijacking of a plane more than one year ago.
The eight passengers are fine, said German church minister Jo Krummacher after his return from Colombia. The director of the Bad Boll Protestant Academy had prepared the release from Germany with representatives of the guerrilla group and the support of former secret agent Werner Mauss.
“The mood among the hostages alternated between laughing and crying. I realised at the moment of release that it was Easter”, said Krummacher. He had travelled to the Colombian capital of Bogotá on Monday for the handing over of the hostages. Members of the International Red Cross, the Colombian General State Prosecutor and other mediators were also present. No ransom money was paid, Krummacher emphasised.
The delegation took off for the jungle in helicopters from a small airstrip; smoke signals indicated their landing place. “Masked and armed guerrilleros formed our reception committee and brought us to their camp by truck”, reported Krummacher. To him it felt “like being in a soap opera”.
“The dirty surroundings, the grubby children – and then these 70 or so armed men and women in spotless uniforms, without so much as a crease in the black and red scarves they used to cover their faces. It was so unreal.”
The ELN commander Galleros theatrically read out the names of the eight hostages who were to be freed – predominantly employees of the Colombian airline Avianca.
“They were slowly brought forward. It was very moving. The daughter of a released pilot, 19-year-old Leslie, kept a diary during the entire period of her captivity. She also cut notches in a stick to mark each day of her captivity”, said Krummacher.
Six further hostages are still imprisoned behind a wooden partition at the edge of the village square. However Red Cross doctors were allowed to examine them for the first time. They are as well as can be expected in the circumstances.
The director of the Bad Boll Protestant Academy is now making preparations for peace talks to be held in Germany at the request of the conflicting parties in Colombia. The paramilitary groups responsible for massacres from which 1.5 million people are now on the run should also, in Krummacher’s opinion, be included in the talks. The talks are to take place in Bad Boll in June.
“It is the duty of all democrats and all Christians in the world to ensure that no part of the world is allowed to succumb to this murderous spiral of violence”, Krummacher said. The desire for peace in a country torn by decades of civil war is, he feels, very strong.
By courtesy of the publisher