CNN BREAKING NEWS
Pelton, Other Journalists Released
Aired January 24, 2003 - 13:39 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to Colombia now, our Kevin Sites standing by. As you know, we've been telling you about Robert Pelton, the journalist that was kidnapped in Colombia. I understand Kevin just had a chance to talk to him. He joins us by the phone now to tell us what Robert Pelton had to say -- Kevin.
KEVIN SITES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. Yes, Robert Pelton Young (sic), the renowned author and war correspondent and Meg Smaker of San Francisco, California, and Mark Wedeven of Seattle, Washington, are all safe with no injuries worse than bug bites.
They're currently in the Colombian national police headquarters where I'm at right now, in the town of Opracado (ph), that is about 350 miles west of Bogota (ph).
The three say that they were exploring the Darian (ph) Gap area. That's kind of a mythical jungle area on the border of Panama and Colombia, when they stumbled on an armed column of about 150 men -- the men had just set an ambush in the region and ambushed some Indians that were there that they thought had been leftists.
Now, when they were taken in captivity, the three say these armed men told them, for almost the entire ten days they were in captivity, that they were members of the FARC, a leftist guerrilla movement.
It was only until the last day, when they were released, that the men revealed to the three of them that they were actually members of the AUC, a paramilitary organization here responsible for a lot of massacres, and humanitarian organizations say that they are one of the worst in terms of human rights.
Now, in terms of how they were treated, however, the three said that they certainly were treated well along the way, that in the period of their captivity, they actually marched about 50 kilometers. They weren't exactly sure where they were going. Pelton had a GPS, a portable GPS system with him, so he was able to kind of track their movements, but they weren't sure exactly where they were. But for the most part, they said that they were safe and they were healthy.
PHILLIPS: Well, Kevin, you know, all of us here at CNN, now we have to go through training when we go into these sort of war-torn areas. When you talked with Robert Pelton, did he say to you what he thinks he did or they did that kept them alive?
SITES: Well, there is a couple of interesting things. Number one, before they went into this area, Pelton said that he had actually e-mailed members of the FARC and of the AUC, knowing that they operate there.
He never received a response back, but he said that he had at least let them know that he was going to come through the area.
Now, when they actually stumbled on this group of armed men, it was an ambush. And instead of running away, Pelton and his group decided to walk into the ambush. They said it was better for them to let them know that they were there, who they were. They spoke in English, they spoke loudly. They tried to make sure that these people were aware they weren't combatants, that they were simply adventurers in a war zone.
So, at that point, it was successful. They weren't shot as they walked into this ambush area. So that was one of the things that Pelton's experience probably helped in terms of them staying alive. There were a lot of other things along the way. They said there wasn't a lot of water, so they had to cut down bamboo shoots and drink from them and probably a lot of other things that we are going to discover as we talk more with them.
PHILLIPS: Incredible story of survival. Kevin Sites there in Colombia, thank you so much.
SITES: Thank you.
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