BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- President Andres Pastrana cut short a foreign visit and returned to Colombia on Tuesday to seek the release of 60 Catholic parishioners held by leftist rebels.
Pastrana had been in Canada since Sunday, when guerrillas from Colombia's second-largest rebel group seized 144 worshipers from a church in the western city of Cali and trucked them into the nearby mountains."The government I head will not negotiate under pressure," Pastrana said in Cali.
Pastrana, who was in Canada when the kidnappings occurred, said he was taking away the telephone the government had issued two jailed leaders of the rebel National Liberation Army, or ELN, as a means to encourage peace contacts with the group.
After raiding the church Sunday, ELN rebels abandoned 84 of their captives hours later to pursuing troops. It has not publicly taken responsibility for the abduction, which shocked even Colombians accustomed to frequent guerrilla kidnappings.