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Ecuador rescues kidnapped British and Australian tourists

posted 30 Sept 2012, 14:45 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Sept 2012, 14:46 ]

A massive rescue operation by Ecuadorean authorities frees two foreign tourists who were kidnapped by an alleged Colombian gang in a remote region of the South American country.

British and Australian tourists kidnapped in Ecuador while visiting a remote nature reserve in the Amazon jungle were rescued by Ecuadorean authorities on Saturday (September 29).
The tourists, who Ecuadorean army officials identified as Katherine Sara Cox and Fiona Louise Wilde, were abducted on Friday (September 28) near the country's border with Colombia.

Following their release, the pair were moved to a military base in the capital of Quito where they were greeted by Ecuador's Interior Minister Jose Serrano.

Australian tourist Fiona Louise Wilde recounted their dramatic rescue by Ecuadorean authorities.

"We were very scared, but we could often hear the helicopters above us and that was very comforting while we were in the jungle. When the helicopters got right above us the kidnappers made us hide in the bushes and the kidnappers got scared. They were-- we think-- close to maybe killing us. And then for some reason they changed their mind and told us to run and we ran out, towards the helicopters yelling, trying to get their attention," she said.

The women said they were overwhelmed by the massive operation authorities undertook to find and release them.

"One of the guys that rescued us got on the motorcycle and notified the authorities and then in ten minutes there was hundreds of army people. We were surrounded and taken and felt very very safe, very very quickly. The response was beyond our wildest dreams; we didn't think anyone was looking for us. We knew there were choppers and we were hoping they were for us but we weren't sure and to have so many people come to our aid, such an enormous response, and to see so many people searching for us on the ground and then knowing behind the scenes there was so many people. We are so grateful, everyone has been so nice to us," added Wilde.

Ecuador's Defence Minister Miguel Carvajal said the pair were rescued by a specialist team featuring hundreds of police and soldiers.

"From 11am they released them because of military and police pressure. Around 260 men from the armed forces, 150 police officers, three helicopters were involved (in the operation) which allowed a fast and strong response which obviously resulted in the two women being with us here in Quito safe and sound. We will continue operations, with all our force, in certain areas of the country so that this does not happen again," he said.

The incident reportedly took place as the women travelled by canoe as part of a tour group in the Cuyabeno nature reserve in the Tarapoa region of Sucumbios province, in the northeast of Ecuador close to the border with Colombia.

They were seized by what authorities in the country said was a Colombian group, the BBC said.

The Ecuadorean government said three other foreigners were with the two women when they were set upon in the park. The other three were not taken by the kidnappers.

The Foreign Commonwealth Office currently advises against all travel to the areas immediately bordering Colombia in Carchi province due to criminal activity and organised crime.