Colombia: Uribe sees corruption in attack that freed rebel

Gustavo Anibal Giraldo, a Colombia ELN rebel leader who escaped prison guards Wednesday, is wanted for the murders of eight soldiers, a Catholic bishop, and the kidnapping of three Americans. Was there insider help?

By , Correspondent

A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe warned that there were "signs of corruption" in the security breach Wednesday that freed a leader of Colombia's second largest rebel group.

Mr. Uribe told his ministers to investigate the escape of Gustavo Anibal Giraldo, also known as "Pablito," from custody in the northeastern city of Arauca, Colombia, CNN International reports. Mr. Giraldo, one of the leaders of the rebel National Liberation Army (ELN), was being transferred to a court hearing by security officials when rebels on motorcycles attacked the convoy, killing one guard and injuring another.

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"There is no explanation for this escape," Uribe told reporters. "There are signs of corruption around this that are very troubling."

The new site Colombia Reports writes that Colombian security forces are scouring the border with Venezuela for Giraldo, and have offered a $900,000 reward for information that leads to Giraldo's recapture.

Luis Alberto Ortiz, Police Commander in Arauca, said to Caracol Radio that the guerrilla fled to neighboring Venezuela as the Police found the vehicle and the motorcycles used by the guerillas who helped "Pablito" escaped in a hamlet across the river from Venezuela.

The BBC adds that Giraldo was "one of the most aggressive and capable military leaders, and his escape could herald an upsurge in activity from the ELN."

The director of the Auruca prison where Giraldo was being held has been charged with assisting Giraldo's escape, Colombia Reports adds, and several guards are also suspected of aiding Giraldo. Colombia's minister of justice has transferred 31 prison officials out of Auruca in order to move the investigation forward.

Giraldo's escape comes less than two weeks after Colombia's Supreme Court denied a US request that he be extradited to face charges for the 2003 kidnapping of two American journalists. The Associated Press reports that the court ruled Giraldo should be tried in Colombia because writer Alison Ruth Morris and photographer Scott A. Dalton were abducted there. Ms. Morris and Mr. Dalton were held by the ELN for 12 days before being released.

Giraldo was also wanted in a U.S. indictment unsealed in December for the 15-month kidnapping of a U.S. helicopter mechanic who was working on contract in an oil extraction region. The victim, Matthew Burchell, was freed in August 2000 after a ransom was paid, the court said in its decision, which was issued Aug. 26 but not publicized until Friday. ...

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