Criminals release 24 hostages
Bogota - Armed men released all of the hostages - 24 in all - who were seized while travelling aboard a ship near a port on Colombia's Pacific coastline, a senior navy commander said on Saturday.
Early reports said that 15 people aboard the ship had been taken hostage near the southwestern Colombian port of Tumaco.
However Admiral Hernando Wills, commander of Colombia's Pacific fleet, told AFP that the correct figure was 24 - nine men, nine women and six minors -and that they had not been abducted.
"This was a case of criminals who were seeking to steal the four tons of supplies aboard the ship," Wills told AFP.
After the seizure, the gunmen moved the travellers to a different boat, and then abandoned them on the coast near Tumaco, close to the Colombia's border with Ecuador.
The region is one of the most violent areas of Colombia, the site of constant clashes between right-wing paramilitary groups and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who fight over major cocaine export routes.
Authorities recovered the stolen ship and arrested two men sailing the vessel.
"So far everything indicates that it is a gang of criminals that presumably was at the service of the FARC," Wills said.