Colombia Rebels Free |Spanish Journalist

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — National Liberation Army rebels have freed a Spanish journalist who went missing a week ago in a lawless region of Colombia, according to the Roman Catholic Church, which helped secure her release.
     Gabriel Villa, the bishop of the border city of Ocana, said he spoke briefly to Salud Hernandez-Mora on Friday after the rebel group, known as the ELN, handed her over to a parish priest in the volatile Catatumbo region.
     He said she seemed exhausted after the long ordeal and was heading to the city of Cucuta or Bucaramanga for a medical check-up before returning to her home in Bogota. The journalist told him that two colleagues also being held by the rebels would be released in the coming hours, perhaps on Saturday.
     Hernandez-Mora is a longtime correspondent for Spanish newspaper El Mundo and one of the country’s most-prominent columnists. Her disappearance last weekend while on assignment shocked Colombians who have experienced dramatic security gains in recent years as Colombia’s half-century conflict winds down.
     Hernandez-Mora was last seen May 21 arguing with an unidentified man and then taking a motorcycle to an unknown destination. Two journalists from the RCN network went missing 48 hours later while covering the search for the Spanish journalist.
     The Jamaica-sized Catatumbo region of northeastern Colombia is among the country’s poorest, most marginalized backwaters. It is a major coca-growing area and a corridor for cocaine smuggling to Venezuela, with the state able to maintain only a few militarized strongholds.
     In addition to the ELN, remnants of the Popular Liberation Army are still active in the area as is the much-larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
     Joshua Goodman is on Twitter at . His work can be found at .
     Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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