Police in Spain have arrested two suspected accomplices of Colombian criminals accused of kidnapping two Spanish tourists in Colombia. The victims were rescued early Saturday.
Colombian police revealed to both Spanish and Colombian media that the two arrested suspects had been involved in the receiving of a ransom for the kidnapping victims. In Colombia, no arrests were made as the reportedly seven persons present with the hostages fled into the desert when members of the Colombian Police’s anti-kidnapping unit Gaula raided the site where the tourists were held.
General Humberto Guatibonza, director of the Gaula, told Spanish newspaper El Pais that the alleged perpetrators were local criminals who initially aimed to steal the tourists’ car, but decided to kidnap them when the victims’ accent revealed they were foreigners. Their accomplices in Spain were of Spanish and Syrian nationality.
According to Guatibonza, authorities also know who the seven suspected kidnappers — among them members of the local Wayuu people — are.
The two Spaniards were rescued Saturday just after midnight, following weeks of cooperation with Spanish and Venezuelan authorities. The Venezuelans were involved because the hostages could’ve been taken across the border to complicate persecution by Colombian authorities. The border area is pure desert and can easily be crossed.
“The criminals were constantly changing location to confuse them [the hostages] and tell them they were in Venezuelan or Colombian territory,” the Gaula director told Colombian radio station Caracol.
Additionally, the kidnappers spoke only in wayuunaiki, the language of the native Wayuu people living in La Guajira, to complicate possible infiltration by outsiders.
Guatibonza told El Pais that the €500,000 ($667,000) ransom in Spain was partially paid to cause a rift within the group between those who wanted to release the hostages and those who wanted more.
“A sum of money was paid in Spain as part of the rescue strategy to divide the criminals in Colombia,” Guatibonza told Caracol.
Once the hostages were safe, Spanish police arrested the two who had received the ransom money.
The Spanish government reported the two tourists missing and assumed kidnapped on May 21. The Spaniards had been kidnapped a few days before while on their way to Cabo de la Vela, the most northern point of Colombia and located in the desolate Guajira desert.
The Spaniards’ kidnapping was the third of foreigners this year. The FARC kidnapped and subsequently released two German tourists in the troubled northwestern Catatumbo region and the ELN kidnapped a Canadian miner in the north of the country. The Canadian is still held by its captors.