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Colombian Rebels Free Foreign Hostages

A Marxist rebel group in Colombia has released two foreign journalists, who were kidnapped 11 days ago in a remote area, where there have been frequent clashes between rebels and government troops.

The guerrillas of the National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish initials ELN, turned over the two journalists to representatives of the Red Cross at a clandestine location in the northeastern part of Colombia, near the Venezuela border.

Witnesses say the two reporters, Ruth Morris and Scott Dalton, appeared to be in good health, as they walked to a small plane that took them to the Colombian capital Bogota.

Ms. Morris is a British citizen who grew up in southern California, and Mr. Dalton, a U.S. citizen, is a photographer who has worked in Colombia as well as Guatemala and Panama. Both were on assignment for The Los Angeles Times, when the guerrillas detained them at a road block in a rural part of Colombia's Arauca state on January 21.

Arauca state is one of the most dangerous areas in Colombia. There have been numerous clashes between the guerrillas and the Colombian military there, and civilians in the area have also reported rebel atrocities in some remote areas. In recent weeks, some 70 U.S. military trainers have been in the area working with Colombian troops.

ELN commanders indicated early on that they would release Ms. Morris and Mr. Dalton when "conditions were right." The kidnappings led to expressions of outrage by colleagues of the two foreign journalists and by international journalist organizations.

This was the first time in four decades of civil war in Colombia that leftist guerrillas had kidnapped foreign journalists. However, the ELN and a larger rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, kidnap thousands of Colombian citizens every year.

In most cases, the victims are held for ransom, but there are many cases of civilians being held for months and even years. One of the most prominent victims is Ingrid Betancourt, who was a presidential candidate at the time she was kidnapped by the FARC a year ago.