Colombian hostage drama ended peacefully

May 22nd, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by admin  

Bogota, May 22 (IANS) The Colombian Army veteran who took some 30 people hostage at a government building and threatened to detonate a grenade has been arrested, putting a peaceful end to the hostage drama, EFE news agency reported Thursday. The 57-year-old former army officer, Edgar Paz Morales, was angry over the non-payment of his pension dues and took the people hostage at a Bogota building Wednesday.

Morales demanded the presence of the military brass, local TV reporter and the Red Cross officials, and insisted he be granted asylum in Mexico. He also forced one of the hostages to read a statement in which he said he was dropped from the ranks without any compensation.

The former non-commissioned officer was tackled to the ground by detectives who entered the building under the guise of reporters.

Before he was being grounded, Morales gave statements to television channels and spoke with radio stations and via cell phone with holding in his right hand what appeared to the explosive with a finger in the pin.

Minutes earlier, the captor, who said he had spent nearly 40 years in the army, allowed two groups of hostages to go free and allowed television crews inside to film the reading of his seven-page manifesto.

“I’m asking for my pension and they’ve been denying me it for more than seven years,” the army veteran told City TV, which interviewed him and later broadcast the moment of his arrest.

In the manifesto, Paz accused armed forces officers of having links to Colombia’s murderous right-wing militias.

“I know that when I leave they’re going to put me in prison. I didn’t want to do this. I want to leave the country and to get a promise that these things will not reoccur. I want to bring this to an end,” he said.

Before he was subdued by the police, the ex-army official alleged that the Colombian government was more generous with demobilized right-wing militiamen and leftist rebels than with veterans of the nation’s armed forces.

“They are giving many benefits to the demobilized ones … I was with the army and they’re not giving me anything and I am demanding my pension,” he said.

The hostage-taker also recounted human rights violations he committed or witnessed while serving in the army.

Morales said he took part in summary executions of rebels after the now-defunct M-19 guerrilla group seized the Dominican Embassy in Bogota in 1980.

He also spoke of having been trained in brutal counter-insurgency tactics by former Israeli Defence Force Colonel Yair Klein, who is wanted in Colombia for war crimes.

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