5 Jan 2008

Colombia gripped by hostage saga

The story of a boy born into captivity in the South American jungle has riveted people for more than a year in Colombia, striking a nerve in a country numbed by 40 years of political violence.

On Friday, the story took a stunning turn.

The top federal prosecutor in Colombia, Mario Iguaran Arana, said the 3-year-old child known simply as Emmanuel may not be a hostage after all.


Initial DNA test results, he said, suggest that Emmanuel has been living under an assumed name for more than two years with a foster family in Bogota, hundreds of miles from the jungle camp where he was born into captivity.

That revelation capped a week of dizzying developments that produced rare good news for relatives of about 700 hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a leftist insurgent force that has sought to overthrow the Colombian government since the late 1960s.

The news, if confirmed, would hurt the credibility of the FARC and could also tarnish the reputation of President Hugo Chavez of neighboring Venezuela. Chavez struck a deal with the FARC that was to have led to freedom for Emmanuel, his mother and another hostage.

The boy's plight figured so prominently in the public imagination in South America that Chavez dubbed the mission "Operation Emmanuel."

Colombia gripped by hostage saga - CNN.com

Also see the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia website