ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) — A small rebel group in Paraguay has released two Mennonite men that it kidnapped four months ago in the country’s north, authorities said Monday.
Mexican citizen Franz Hiebert, 32, and Paraguayan Bernhard Blatz, 22, were released in a forest in the state of Concepcion, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of the Paraguayan capital, said Col. Victor Urdapilleta, spokesman for Paraguay’s anti-terror force.
The Paraguayan People’s Army had demanded a joint $1 million ransom for their release. But when their families said they didn’t have the money, the rebel group asked them instead to distribute food to poor rural communities. Authorities say the families met that demand in December in exchange for the release.
Hiebert is being treated at a hospital in Asuncion. He suffered infections and other injuries while he was tied to a tree trunk in the forest for months, said Arnoldo Wiens, a lawmaker and former Mennonite pastor.
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The Paraguayan People’s Army often targets the descendants of Mennonite colonists who arrived to Paraguay in the 1930s and who labor as farmers. Attacks by the guerrilla group have claimed the lives of 27 civilians, 13 police officers and 21 soldiers since 2008.