Mon, Feb 21, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Kidnap victim held in booby trapped hideout, police say

AP , Caracas, Venezuela

Kidnappers holding the mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina kept her in a dense jungle and surrounded the area with explosives to keep her from fleeing, police said.

Maura Villarreal was rescued Friday in a police raid that lasted eight hours and ended with one of her abductors dead, two captured and at least seven on the run. Villarreal, 54, was not harmed, police said Saturday while revealing new details of her ordeal.

During her more than five months of captivity, Villarreal slept on a mattress in a makeshift tent at an abandoned campground called Las Nieves, or The Snows, in Venezuela's rugged southern mountains.

The nearest village was an eight-hour drive away, and police who eventually raided the camp had to arrive by helicopter and boat up a mountain river in Venezuela's Bolivar province, some 400km southeast of Caracas.

The camp was a drug traffickers' hide-out, police said. On Saturday, they blamed Venezuelan and Colombian drug smugglers for the kidnapping, saying authorities found weapons, grenades and a huge cache of at least 585kg of cocaine at the camp.

"There's no doubt that we're before a group of drug traffickers and kidnappers of Venezuelan and Colombian nationality," said Marcos Chavez, director of the federal police. Chavez showed reporters a Colombian identity card found at the camp and believed to belong to one of the men who escaped.

Villarreal told reporters late Friday she was not treated "well or poorly," and that the most hurtful thing was having to bear her captors taunts that her wealthy son did not love her because he did not pay the US$6 million ransom demand.

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