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Colombian President Orders Intensified Hunt for FARC Hostages


Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has ordered the military to step up efforts to find a French-Colombian national and three American contractors held hostage by leftist rebels.

President Uribe ordered the intensified hunt Friday for former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and the Americans.

Betancourt was abducted by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2002 while campaigning for the presidency. The American trio were seized a year later after their plane went down during a counter-narcotics mission.

Mr. Uribe's order was made over the objections of the French government and Betancourt's family. They fear that any military action against FARC could put the hostages' lives in danger.

Mr. Uribe issued his order after authorities found a Colombian policeman who had been held hostage with Betancourt and the U.S. contractors.

The policeman, Jhon Frank Pinchao, recently escaped from the rebels after more than eight years in captivity. He was abducted in 1998 when FARC rebels raided the southeastern town of Mitu, killing some officers and taking 60 people hostage.

Pinchao says the kidnappers have punished Betancourt for trying to escape. He says he last saw her and the American captives on April 28th.

The former hostage said Thursday in Bogota he fled a rebel camp and spent 17 days walking through the Amazon jungle before a police patrol found him.

Pinchao says the hostages were moved from one camp to another every few months.

The FARC has been holding about 60 political prisoners for several years in the hope of trading them for hundreds of rebels held by the government.

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