Abducted Briton shot dead in Colombia

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The Independent Online
PETER KESSLER, a British citizen who was shot dead after being kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas over the weekend, is the latest victim of one of that country's most buoyant industries.

Revolutionary bands and criminal gangs specialise in snatching people off the streets, at the rate of about 1,000 a year. While the criminals tend to demand ransoms, political kidnappings are usually either as reprisals or to obtain bargaining counters for negotiations with the government. Businessmen are favourite targets for both groups.

Mr Kessler was killed in a gun battle between police and his kidnappers, according to the Colombian authorities.

They blamed a unit of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the oldest and best-organised of Colombia's numerous left-wing guerrilla armies, and one of only two remaining in the field. The group has been in on-off peace negotiations with the government for several years, but talks now seem to have broken down irretrievably. The army said skirmishing had taken place in nearby mountains just before Mr Kessler was taken.

Mr Kessler, 65, was kidnapped as he left his home in El Rodadero, a luxurious Caribbean beach resort along the coast from Santa Marta, where the marijuana barons used to flaunt their new- found wealth in the 1970s, before a combination of foreign competition and military action put paid to the business.

Mr Kessler worked for a banana exporting company. His wife, a Colombian, said he had not received any threats or warnings.