A monthlong kidnap ordeal at the hands of Colombian guerrillas almost cost former U.S. nun Louise Augustine her life.
Two weeks into her captivity Augustine, 63, plunged more than 130 feet into a ravine and was knocked unconscious.In dramatic scenes Friday, a 30-strong rebel force, armed with Galil and AK-47 automatic assault rifles and heavy mortars, handed over Augustine, badly injured but in high spirits, to a Red Cross delegation. The event took place about 11/2 miles up a dirt track from the village of Los Alpes, nestled into mountains just east of Bogota.
"I fell some 40 meters and from what they said, I hit a ledge and fell down to the river," Augustine told Reuters minutes after her re-lease.
"I was unconscious and when I came round I didn't know what had happened. I didn't know I was in Colombia. I'd forgotten I was a captive."
Augustine, a bird watcher, was kidnapped March 23 by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels along with three other U.S. bird watchers at a rebel roadblock. The four were on their way to search for a rare species of hummingbird in the mountains of central Cundinamarca province.
One of the Americans, Thomas Fiori of New York, was released on April 2. The other two, Peter Shen, also of New York, and Todd Mark of Houston, are still in captivity but should be released over the weekend, according to the commander of the FARC's 53rd Front, known by his alias Rom-ana.
Augustine, delighted to be free, said her religious beliefs helped her during her captivity. "My faith definitely helped me. I prayed every day for a miracle, and this is it."
Peering through small, round eyeglasses and looking tan, the former nun of Chillicothe, Ill., said she bore no malice against her rebel captors.
"I was never frightened. There were no threats. Everybody was just very helpful and looked after us well," Augustine said.