(AFP) – Jul 16, 2011
BOGOTA — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos offered a reward Saturday for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of a woman rebel allegedly linked to the kidnapping of four Chinese oil workers.
Santos said a reward of up to 500 million pesos (about 285,000 dollars) was available for helping land the arrest of the rebel known as Claudia, with the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombian authorities blame her for the abductions.
The four men, who are employees of the British oil company Emerald Energy a subsidiary of Sinochem, were kidnapped by at least seven armed men wearing civilian clothes June 9.
They were traveling in a region where the FARC are especially active, near the town of San Vicente del Caguan, in the southern Caqueta region.
"Claudia," whose real name is Maria del Carmen Perez, 35, has been a rebel for 19 years. Authorities say she is a leader of an elite FARC unit.
The FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since 1964, is the country's oldest and largest leftist group, with an estimated 8,000 combatants.
Last year, 282 people were kidnapped in the South American country -- a 32 percent increase compared to the previous year, according to official figures.
Criminals were responsible for most of the kidnappings -- 57 percent -- compared to 35 percent for leftist guerrillas.
Earlier this year, Santos warned multinational companies they would be kicked out of the country if they paid ransoms to rebel groups or other criminal gangs that have kidnapped their employees.
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