Commando raid frees baseball star from kidnappers

Gun battle liberates Major League player, days after he is abducted from his Venezuelan home

Caracas

The American Major League baseball star Wilson Ramos, kidnapped four days ago in Venezuela, was freed yesterday amid heavy gunfire when police commandos swooped on the remote mountain hideaway where he was being held. He was liberated unharmed, and five of his captors were arrested.

Ramos said the final moments had been hair-raising as police and the kidnappers exchanged heavy fire. "The truth is I'm still very nervous, but thanks to God everything turned out well," Ramos told Venezuelan state television, speaking by telephone after arriving at a police station in his hometown of Valencia, 90 miles west of Caracas, early yesterday. He thanked the police and National Guard commandos who rescued him, saying "the boys did a great job".

The Washington Nationals catcher had not been seen or heard from since he was seized at gunpoint outside his home on Wednesday night in the working-class neighbourhood in Valencia. He had had been talking outside his front door with relatives when he was bundled into a vehicle.

"I don't know who those people were. I know they're Colombians by their accent," Ramos said. "Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house, they took me to another SUV [sports utility vehicle] and from there they took me into the mountains," in the centre of the state of Carabobo.

He said his abductors spoke little to him. "They simply told me to cooperate, that they were going to ask for a ton of cash for me. They put me in a room with a bed," he said. "It was hard for me to think about, if I was going to get out alive first of all... about how my family, my mother were."

Authorities tracked down the abductors after initially locating their stolen vehicle, abandoned in a nearby town on Thursday.

Ramos's abduction precipitated an outpouring of candlelit vigils and public prayers at stadiums as well as outside his home. Ramos had only recently returned to his homeland after his first year with the Nationals and planned to play during the off-season in the Venezuelan league. "As soon as I feel all right, I'm going to start playing," Ramos said. "They didn't physically harm me, but psychologically I underwent very great harm."

After undergoing medical checks at a police station, Ramos was reunited with his family. Five men were arrested for the kidnapping, including a Colombian who the police said was "linked to paramilitary and kidnapping groups".

Security has increasingly become a concern for Venezuelan players and their families as the number of kidnappings has soared in recent years. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, and the vast majority of crimes go unsolved. Bodyguards routinely shadow Major League players when they return from the United States to their homeland to play in Venezuela's baseball league.

AP

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HR Assistant

£17447 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is a leading centre fo...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence