The Words of the Ota Family

Kidnappers Release Moon Church Secretary In Paraguay

April 11, 2007

ASUNCION (AFP) - Kidnappers released on Tuesday a Japanese woman abducted nine days ago with her boss, the head of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church in Paraguay, who is still being held, police said.

The release of secretary Sawako Takayama serves as the "proof of life" demanded before friends would pay a 500,000-dollar ransom which the kidnappers set for Hirokazu Ota, the head of the church here, said deputy interior minister Mario Sapriza.

On Saturday, people close to Ota, 62, demanded some sign that the victims were alive, after their April 1 kidnapping in Caaguazu, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) east of the capital, Asuncion.

An elite police unit has focused its attention on Paraguay's border with Brazil and Argentina, 330 kilometers (205 miles) east of Asuncion.

The porous tri-border area is a hard to patrol haven for smugglers and criminal activity.

Police stepped up highway patrols on the weekend, especially along the road leading to the tourist destination at Ciudad del Este. Investigators believe the kidnappers may have taken advantage of heavy traffic during Easter to move to a safer location.

Investigators suspect that highly trained former police officers who were fired for breach of duty might be behind the kidnappings.

Japanese consular officials are closely monitoring the probe.

Ota, who has lived in Paraguay for 10 years, is the president of Victoria SA, a company that manages land assets in Paraguay owned by other members of the South Korea-based church.

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