BOGOTA – Five kidnapped employees of a contractor working for Occidental Petroleum have been released by FARC rebels, a high-level Colombian military official said Monday.
The oil workers were released on Sunday as soldiers from the army’s 18th Brigade closed in on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas who abducted them two days earlier, armed forces chief Adm. Edgar Cely told Caracol Radio and television.
The rebels set the oil workers free in a rural area outside Arauquita, a city in Arauca province, and all are in good health and were examined by doctors, the admiral said.
Two armed people wearing civilian clothing abducted the oil workers on Friday evening as they drove from Arauca city to Arauquita, 18th Brigade commander Gen. Jaime Reyes Breton said over the weekend.
Both the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army, or ELN, operate in the region, an important oil-producing area.
Illegal armed groups have recently staged attacks on both oil industry workers and infrastructure across Colombia.
The Caño Limon-Coveñas pipeline, the second-largest oil pipeline in Colombia, has been attacked numerous times by the ELN in Arauca.
Four Chinese oil workers were kidnapped by the FARC in Caqueta, a province in southern Colombia, in early June.
The four men, who work for Emerald Energy, were abducted while driving from San Vicente del Caguan to Los Pozos.
The Colombian government is offering a reward of more than $1.6 million for information on the whereabouts of the oil workers, but no word has been received from the kidnappers.
The FARC kidnapped 23 Colombians working as subcontractors for Canada’s Talisman Energy in March in Vichada, a province on the border with Venezuela.
Twenty-two of the workers were released a few days later as the army closed in on the guerrilla unit that abducted them.
The last kidnapped Talisman worker was released on July 28. EFE