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Two female tourists freed after Ecuador kidnap ordeal


Kathryn Cox, left, and Fiona Louise Wilde were abducted as they travelled by canoe through the Cuyabeno nature reserve in the Tarapoa region of Ecuador.

Two female tourists were kidnapped while visiting a nature reserve in north-eastern Ecuador near the border with Colombia, but were released after two days, authorities said Monday.

Kathryn Sara Cox, 23, who is British, and an Australian identified in local media as 32-year-old Fiona Louise Wilde, were seized on Friday by what Ecuadorean authorities said was a Colombian group, according to a BBC report.

Ecuador's interior minister Jose Serrano said the two were rescued Sunday night by police and armed forces.

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Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the safety of Cox was now "top priority" as U.K. and Ecuadorian authorities worked together to find who was responsible.

Two female tourists are free after being kidnapped in Ecuador near the Colombian border and spending two days with captors in the jungle. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

An FCO spokesman said:

"We are very pleased to be able to confirm that Kathryn Sara Cox, who was kidnapped in a remote part of Sucumbios province, Ecuador, on Friday has been found today. She, along with an Australian national, was found following an intensive search of the area by the police and military. She is now in the care of Ecuadorian and U.K. officials, and her health and safety is our top priority. We are giving full consular assistance to both her and her family."

The incident took place as the women traveled by canoe as part of a tour group in the Cuyabeno nature reserve in the Tarapoa region of Sucumbios province, in the north east of Ecuador close to the border with Colombia, the BBC said.

Officials in Ecuador are searching for suspected arsonists behind the devastating wildfires that have burned thousands of acres of farmland. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

It reported they were part of a group made up of several foreign tourists and two Ecuadorean guides. Local reports suggested a criminal gang called the Black Eagles, made up of ex-paramilitaries, might have been behind the abduction, according to the BBC.

Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper quoted Wilde as saying:

"We were very scared. We could often hear the helicopters above us and that was very comforting while we were in the jungle. When the helicopters got right above us, the kidnappers made us hide under bushes and they got scared and they were, we think, close to maybe nearly killing us. For some reason they changed their mind and told us to run and we ran out towards the helicopters, yelling and trying to get their attention.”

The U.S. State Department does not warn against travel in that part of Ecuador, but noted that at least four U.S. citizens have been murdered in Ecuador since 2009.

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