Leftist Rebels Allegedly Kidnap 9 Geologists Looking For Gold In Northwest Colombia

Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 6:03 pm
By: News On 6

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Leftist rebels kidnapped nine geologists as they searched for gold in northwestern Colombia, authorities said Wednesday.

The geologists, employees of Compania de Servicios Logisticos de Colombia, were abducted Tuesday evening in the province of Choco by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the commander of the army's 15th brigade.

``We are carrying out operations to find and rescue them,'' said Col. Carlos Pinto, who is heading a rescue effort that includes air force helicopters and fighter jets.

Colombia's air force issued a statement saying nine other people were kidnapped in the same raid, but this was denied by Pinto.

The rebels left a note at the scene of the abduction about 190 miles northwest of the capital, Bogota, saying they would contact the company with ransom demands, Pinto said.

The company declined to comment.

The tropical jungles of Choco, one of Colombia's poorest regions, are home to leftist rebels, drug traffickers and far-right paramilitaries.

Also Wednesday, the army confirmed the disappearance of four contractors hired by Colombian oil giant Ecopetrol. The four went missing Monday night near the border with Venezuela, said Gen. Jose Gonzalez, commander of the army's 18th Brigade.

``At this point we don't have any information on whether they are kidnapped or missing,'' he said.

Colombia remains one of the world leaders in kidnapping, with common criminals and rebels alike abducting people for ransom. FARC guerrillas also kidnap to pressure the government, and have in the past targeted mining and oil companies, accusing them of stealing Colombia's natural resources.