The recent kidnapping of three people related to prominent Colombians may be part of a cocaine cartel plan to pressure

the government in the nation's war with drug traffickers, police said.Francisco Santos, news editor of Colombia's largest circulation newspaper, El Tiempo, was kidnapped Wednesday night by armed men who killed a bodyguard. Santos is the son of Hernando Santos, publisher of the paper owned by the prominent Santos family.

Also kidnapped Wednesday was the sister of a former top government official. Others still missing were Diana Turbay de Uribe, daughter of former President Julio Turbay, and five journalists who disappeared Aug. 30.

Gen. Nassin Yanine Diaz, National Police commander for Bogota, said officials were working on the assumption the cases were related and part of a plan to pressure the government to negotiate with cocaine cartel leaders.

"It is one aspect we are evaluating," Yanine told the radio station RCN. "If it is a plan put in place to pressure the government to look for a solution, then we can say the cases are related. But up to now, we are evaluating this. I believe that we, as policemen, have to be working with this hypothesis."

The spate of kidnappings is the first crisis faced by President Cesar Gaviria, who took office Aug. 7.