Lawmakers kidnapped from state parliament building in Cali

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Associated Press WriterBOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Suspected rebels dressed in military uniforms kidnapped lawmakers from a parliament building in the city of Cali on Thursday, police said. Five of the hostages later were rescued by security forces.

One policeman was killed in the attack and two soldiers were wounded in the rescue, officials said.

Witnesses said the gunmen posed as a bomb squad -- and even brought a dog -- to gain entry to the building.

The kidnappers told the assemblymen there was a bomb in the building and then took an unknown number of legislators away with them, said Gen. Luis Ernesto Gilibert, the national police chief. Witnesses said the hostages were driven off in vehicles.

TV news reports said six to nine lawmakers were abducted.

Government security forces pursued the kidnappers in vehicles and by helicopter to the outskirts of Cali, and rescued five of the lawmakers, Col. Carlos Arevalo told The Associated Press.

Two soldiers were wounded as they clashed with the kidnappers during the rescue, he said.

Police, guns drawn, were seen entering the assembly building emerging later with an injured officer, who was bleeding heavily and appeared to be unconscious. Officials later confirmed he was fatally shot by one of the kidnappers.

Interior Minister Armando Estrada blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the abduction, calling it "an attack on liberty and democracy."

Colombia's 38-year civil war has escalated in recent weeks, after peace talks with the country's main rebel group collapsed.

President Andres Pastrana ended peace talks with the FARC on Feb. 20 after the rebels hijacked an airliner and kidnapped a senator who was aboard.

Cali is Colombia's third-largest city and the capital of Valle de Cauca state.

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