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Colombian Rebels to Release 5 Foreign Hostages - 2003-12-22

Negotiators in Colombia say rebels are expected to free five foreign hostages Monday after months in captivity in northern jungle-covered mountains.

The hostages - four Israelis and a Briton - were said to be walking to an undisclosed area in Colombia's northern Sierra Nevada mountains where they will be handed over to negotiators.

The captives were among eight tourists kidnapped by the National Liberation Army kidnapped in the mountains on September 12.

One hostage, a British teenager, escaped, and a German and a Spaniard were released in November.

The rebels say they seized the tourists to raise awareness about plight of the indigenous community in the area.

Colombia has the highest kidnapping rate in the world, with rebels and other insurgents holding scores of civilians, politicians, police and military officials.

The insurgents use kidnap victims to trade for guerrillas held in government jails or for ransom to fund their opertions.