On this day: Colombian rebels free Israeli hostages

December 22 2003: Freedom, after more than 100 days

By Jennifer Lipman, December 22, 2010

In September 2003 Beni Daniel, Ortaz Ohayon, Ido Yosef Guy and Erez Altawil – four Israelis in their twenties – were kidnapped while trekking near ancient Indian ruins at Ciudad Perdida.

They were taken hostage by members of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN), a leftist rebel organisation which had been waging a war against the government of the south American country since the 1960s.

Three others, kidnapped at the same time, had already escaped. But the Israelis, along with 32-year-old Briton Mark Henderson, were not released for another 102.

Their rescue came with the help of negotiators from Colombia’s Catholic Church. They were handed over at a secret spot in the Sierra Nevada mountains, then travelled the 950 miles north to Bogota to fly back home.

According to the ELN, the kidnappings were about highlighting the deeds of the rightwing paramilitaries and the oppression of Colombia’s indigenous communities, not money.

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Last updated: 9:42am, December 22 2010