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Colombia sighs relief at release of kidnapped girl

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The first thing 10-year-old Nhora Valentina Munoz asked for when she was released by her captors in western Colombia late Monday was a pajama party with her friends. The girl’s father, mayor of the town of Fortul, couldn’t say no. “They had a lot of fun,” Jorge Enrique Munoz said Tuesday.

The kidnapping, which occurred when gunmen snatched the girl as her mother took her to school on the morning of September 29, sparked a nationwide outcry in a country that was once considered the kidnap capital of the world. Demonstrations demanding her release sprung up across the nation.

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Kidnapping has dropped in the past decade and Nhora’s abduction was a reminder of darker times.

It is not entirely clear who kidnapped the girl, who was held for 19 days after she was snatched as she walked to school in the town of Fortul near Colombia's border with Venezuela. Her release was negotiated by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Colombia’s two main rebel groups, the FARC and the ELN, both maintain an active presence in the area but both have denied participating in the abduction.

However Gen. Eduardo Reyes, commander of the army in the area where the kidnapping occurred, told W Radio that the FARC’s 10th Front had been holding the girl. He said the rebels took advantage of a cease in military operations – requested by the ICRC to facilitate her release – to move troops into Venezuela.

The girl, who appeared to be in good health, gave few details about her captors. "Sometimes I was afraid, but I always had faith in God, and I knew everything would be ok,” she told Caracol Radio Tuesday.

In a separate incident, on Sunday in southeastern Colombia, a municipal employee of the town of El Tambo, Luis Eduardo García, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen at a roadblock. His body was found on Monday.