|Colombia||REBEL LEADER APOLOGISES TO CHURCH|
The head of the Marxist rebel group that abducted more than 140 people from a church in southwest Colombia offered his apologies, in an interview published on Monday, for a crime that has shocked the nation.
``We're not enemies of the Church,'' Nicolas Rodriguez, maximum commander of the Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army (ELN), told the weekly news magazine Semana.
``We beg forgiveness from the church and all the faithful for this act, and we're sure that many will understand what happened,'' he added.
Rodriguez, known by the alias ``Gabino,'' was referring to the 30 May attack in which ELN commandos swept into a Roman Catholic church in an exclusive residential district of Cali and abducted 143 people, carrying them off into the nearby Andean mountains. The rebels freed 84 of the churchgoers soon after the raid and five others, all in poor health, were released on Saturday. At least 54 others remained in rebel hands on Monday.
Reuters 1:45pm 8/6/99