The Americas

Colombian rebels free kidnapped UN official

A United Nations official who was kidnapped in May by dissident rebel fighters in Colombia has been released, officials with the country's government said Wednesday.

"We are very grateful for the decision to release him unharmed. He is in good health," the director of the UN Information Center in Bogota, Helene Papper, was quoted as telling Agence France-Presse.

The UN official was identified as Harley Lopez, who is from Colombia.

"We are currently making all the logistical arrangements to transfer him to Bogota,” Papper said.

Lopez works for the UN Office on Crime and Drugs. In early May, he was visiting the southeast region of Colombia to promote the replacement of coca with legal crops when he was kidnapped.

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The rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), completed a disarmament plan in late June that was part of an agreement with the government. But a faction of the leftist rebel group refused to abide by the accord.

High-ranking Colombian government officials strongly condemned the kidnapping shortly after it occurred.

Senior presidential adviser Rafael Pardo told reporters after the kidnapping: “This action is absolutely unacceptable.”

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Pardo said that the kidnapping imperiled the efforts of the Colombian government to work with coca farmers to change over to legal crops, according to the wire service EFE.

Colombia leads all countries in cocaine production. FARC had relied on cocaine to fund its revolutionary activities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.