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Colombian rebels release hostages

Thursday, April 11, 2002

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Rebels released 11 hostages Wednesday with a message demanding the Colombian government reject any U.S. assistance to protect a crucial oil pipeline. President Bush has asked the U.S. Congress to approve a $98 million aid package to train and equip the Colombian military to protect the pipeline, which is used by Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum.

, among other companies.

The 480-mile pipeline has been frequently attacked by rebels from both the ELN and the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Colombia's state oil company Ecopetrol said rebel sabotage of oil operations cost 24 million barrels in lost crude production last year. Colombia is the 10th-largest supplier of oil to the United States.

Reyes said he and the other hostages were all treated well, under the circumstances.

Also on Wednesday, authorities in Bogota seized more than $400,000 in Colombian pesos and dollars belonging to the FARC, prosecutors and the army said. The seizures came after a sweep of suspected FARC hide-outs in the capital, in which they also found accounting materials.

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