Image: Erik Roland Larsson
A photo taken from a video provided by Colombia's secret police, shows Erik Roland Larsson, the last known foreign hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, talking to an unidentified woman after being handed over to authorities on Tuesday.
updated 3/17/2009 11:36:04 PM ET 2009-03-18T03:36:04

Leftist rebels on Tuesday freed the last known foreign hostage held in Colombia, an ailing 69-year-old Swede kidnapped nearly two years ago from the ranch where he'd retired.

Erik Roland Larsson, paralyzed in half his body, was handed over to detectives in a rugged region of the northern state of Cordoba, the head of the DAS state security agency, Felipe Munoz, told The Associated Press.

Video provided by DAS to local media showed Larsson, apparently unable to walk, being lifted by police and soldiers from a canoe on the shore of a river in desolate, high terrain and placed on a stretcher and into an ambulance.

Munoz said various Swedish non-governmental organizations had sought his freedom.

"For us, it's obviously a very happy day," Swedish Embassy counselor Tommy Stromberg told the AP.

Stromberg said he did not know if a ransom was paid to Larsson's captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, but that Swedish police had worked closely with the DAS on the case.

The FARC had sought a $5 million ransom, according to the DAS.

Colombia's Defense Ministry said in a report issued earlier this month that Larsson was the only foreigner still held captive in the nation.

Ambassador Lena Nordstrom told reporters that Larsson, whom she met in Cordoba's capital, Monteria, had been the only Swedish kidnap victim in the world. She said he'd received some Swedish food but didn't elaborate.

He was to later be flown to Bogota.

Larsson was kidnapped from his ranch in Tierralta on May 16, 2007, along with his Colombian wife, Diana Pena. She escaped that same month following a gunbattle between her captors and police.

He had retired in Colombia after working for Skanska AB on construction of the Urra 1 hydroelectric project in the region, and named his ranch "Cielito Lindo," Spanish for Pretty Little Sky.

Larsson's son Tommy, who lives in Sweden, told the AP on Feb. 1 that he'd recently received a proof-of-life video but no ransom demand.

"A doctor saw the video and it appears that he had suffered from a stroke. His right arm, leg and parts of his face are paralyzed," Tommy Larsson said then. "Daddy is old and sick. He has lost weight. He looks weak."

Larsson became Colombia's last known foreign hostage on July 2, when military agents posing as a humanitarian mission airlifted three U.S. military contractors and the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt to freedom in an elaborate ruse.

At least 22 Colombian soldiers and police continue to be held by the FARC as political bargaining chips.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Colombia hostage, free at last


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments