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Kidnappings Increased 7%, Colombia Says

From Reuters

This nation, which has the dubious distinction of being considered the kidnapping capital of the world, beat its own record in 2000 when the tally rose 7%, police said in a report issued Saturday.

This year, a total of 3,162 people were kidnapped in Colombia, police said, up from the 2,959 cases reported in 1999. Police said nearly 60% of the kidnappings were the work of leftist rebels.

Kidnapping is big business for the guerrillas and far-right paramilitary groups in Latin America’s longest-running conflict, who use ransom and cash from the drug trade to finance their uprising, authorities say.

The report said police anti-kidnapping operations in 2000 had foiled ransom payments totaling about $15 million. Ransoms range from $100 to millions of dollars.

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The increase in kidnappings was confirmed in a report last week by Pais Libre, an independent group that monitors kidnappings. The group said 3,029 kidnappings occurred in the first 11 months of 2000, up from the 2,945 that it recorded for 1999.

The police said the National Liberation Army, Colombia’s second-biggest rebel force, topped the kidnappings list, carrying out 867 abductions during the year.

The largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, carried out 734 kidnappings.

The police said guerrilla kidnappings accounted for 58% of the total. Eleven percent were carried out by common criminals and 8% by far-right paramilitary groups. Those responsible for the remainder had yet to be determined, the police said.

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