Kidnap Briton's body found in Ecuador forest

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The Independent US

The bodies of a British oil worker kidnapped by Colombian guerrillas 10 months ago and his Ecuadorean driver have been discovered in the Amazon rainforest .

John Buckley, 64, went missing in October last year along with Luiz Diaz, 60, in the village of Sardinas, south-east of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Their bodies were found by an anti-kidnapping unit about 100 miles north-east of Quito, according to local reports.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Mr Buckley's next of kin have been informed and tests are being carried out to establish a formal identity."

Mr Buckley was born in the Republic of Ireland and held dual British nationality. Married with a grown-up daughter, he was a technician with Techint, an Argentinian exploration and production company which is building a £830m oil pipeline from the Amazon to the coast.

The two men were travelling by truck to a pumping plant on the border with Colombia when the guerrillas struck.

Soon after Mr Buckley was abducted, Techint reportedly paid an unspecified ransom but the payment failed to secure the men's release. On 15 December last year, the company offered a reward of $40,000 (£25,000) for information leading to the men's return.

The Foreign Office has advised against all travel to the northern border areas with Colombia. The latest incident is one in a long list of abductions of foreigners in Ecuador's Amazon region in recent years.

In June 2001, Colombian and Ecuadorean authorities arrested 57 members of a gang who were accused of kidnapping 10 foreign oil workers in the same area. Fifty of the suspects were Colombian.

One American hostage was killed while ransom negotiations were taking place and two Frenchmen escaped shortly after the kidnapping. The remaining seven hostages were freed in March 2001 after a £8.5m ransom was paid.

The same gang was also believed to be responsible for kidnapping seven Canadians and one American oil worker in late 1999. They were held captive for 100 days before a ransom was paid.

Colombian authorities have said the gang was responsible for at least eight kidnappings in Ecuador, mainly of foreigners, since 1990.

Britons have also fallen victim to terrorism. In March 2003 there was an attack against the British honorary consulate in Guayaquil by a terrorist group.

Falling oil prices and damage to the main pipeline caused by El Niño, the weather phenomenon that affects the equatorial Pacific region, has driven Ecuador's economy into recession in the past few years, leading to more crime against foreigners. The pipeline has also been attacked by terrorists.

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