January 11, 2008 / 8:07 PM / in 10 years

TIMELINE: Hostage-taking in Colombia

(Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged the international community to stop labeling Colombian guerrillas as terrorists on Friday, a day after rebels freed two high-profile women hostages.

Here is a chronology of hostage-taking events in Colombia in recent years.

Sept 4, 1997 - Marxist rebels storm into one of Colombia’s larger hydroelectric power stations and take at least 23 hostages.

March 26, 1998 - Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, hold more than 30 civilian hostages, including four U.S. citizens and an Italian, after seizing them on a highway outside Bogota, authorities say.

April 25 - Marxist rebels free the last two of the four U.S. bird-watchers taken hostage.

Jan 9, 1999 - Marxist rebels free two foreign hostages, a German and a Canadian, held hostage in separate parts of the country, authorities say.

Feb 9, 2000 - Army troops free hundreds of people held by leftist rebels blockading a major highway, after a four-day siege that is believed to be Colombia’s biggest-ever hostage seizure.

Oct 25 - One of the 24 people held more than a month in a mass kidnapping by Colombian guerrillas dies, prompting the government and rebels to step up talks about freeing the others, Colombia’s peace commissioner says.

Jan 10, 2001 - Helicopter-borne Colombian troops rescue 56 hostages from leftist guerrillas but the rebel group strikes back, kidnapping 13 other people, including five policemen, in another area, police and army officials say.

Feb 24, 2002 - Marxist guerrillas kidnap presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt on a dangerous road into their former safe haven. Betancourt was captured along with her running mate Clara Rojas.

May 5, 2003 - Marxist rebels kill a provincial governor, a former defense minister and eight soldiers held hostage when the army botches a rescue attempt, the government and survivors say.

Dec 21, 2006 - President Alvaro Uribe softens his stance on talks with Marxist rebels over the release of hostages held by the guerrillas, including three U.S. contract workers taken three years earlier.

Dec 18, 2007 - FARC says in a statement it will turn over three hostages to Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, just weeks after Bogota ends the leftist leader’s efforts to broker the release of rebel captives.

Dec 31 - The delicate mission to free the three hostages appears to collapse as the government and rebel leaders accuse each other of trying to kill the deal.

Jan 10, 2008 - Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, a former lawmaker captured in 2001, are freed, raising hopes for dozens more languishing in secret camps.

Writing by Paul Grant, Washington Editorial Reference Unit; editing by Stuart Grudgings

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