Colombian guerrilla group releases British engineer after two years

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The Independent US

After two years in captivity, the British oil worker Alistair Taylor was freed by his Colombian kidnappers yesterday. The engineer, who was abducted by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas as he went to work on 27 August 1999, was said to be in "great spirits" after his release and expected to return to Britain within days.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: "I am delighted that Alistair is safe and well and looking forward to a reunion with his family and friends. This has been a terribly long ordeal for them all."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said yesterday that Mr Taylor, 47, from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, had been flown to the capital of Colombia, Bogota, where he was met by his brother, Charlie, and examined by a doctor.

She added: "Mr Taylor was released in the early hours of this morning, our time, by his kidnappers, who handed him over to a representative of the company he works for at a location in the Arauca Department in the east of Colombia.

"He was flown to Bogota where he was met by representatives from our embassy and his employers, as well as his brother. He is undergoing medical checks to ensure he is fit to travel and we expect him to return to the UK within the next few days."

Jeremy Thorp, the British ambassador in Bogota, said Mr Taylor was tired and had lost weight, but added that he was in good humour.

Mr Taylor, who has a Colombian wife, Martha Valencia, and four-year-old son, Alecito, had worked for a Texas-based oil firm, Weatherford International, in Colombia since 1995.

His family in Scotland had heard no word from him since he was abducted by members of the Domingo Lain Front of the ELN as he arrived for work near the town of Yopal, capital of the oil-rich province of Casanare near the border with Venezuela. He was travelling in a taxi when two other taxis cut off the vehicle and men got out and grabbed him.

Mr Taylor's case gained publicity in April this year when ELN rebels allowed a British freelance journalist, Karl Penhaul, to interview Mr Taylor and take a video of him in the mountain camp where he was being held.

In the film, screened by the BBC, Mr Taylor said: "I am not going to let this beat me. I am not going to crack. It is set in my mind that I will walk out of here some day to freedom."

The rebels reportedly asked $3m (£2.2m) for Mr Taylor's release though whether any ransom was paid is not known.

Another three foreigners are being held hostage in Colombia, according to Juan Francisco Mesa, the country's top anti-kidnapping official. With more than 3,700 reported abductions, Colombia has the world's highest kidnapping rate.

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