• Kyodo

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A Japanese businessman kidnapped in Colombia two years ago sent a letter to his family last summer saying he was alive, sources said Friday.

The letter was the first confirmation that Chikao Muramatsu, 54, vice president of a local joint venture of auto parts maker Yazaki Corp., was alive since last being spotted in February 2002, they said.

Local authorities have no idea where Muramatsu is being detained and negotiations for his release remain deadlocked.

Muramatsu was kidnapped Feb. 22, 2001, and is being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the nation’s largest guerrilla group. He sent the letter to his family in July from a FARC hostage camp, the sources said.

Relatives of Muramatsu had placed an advertisement in a leading Colombian newspaper immediately before the letter was sent, urging the FARC to contact the family.

Last February, a witness told authorities that a man believed to be Muramatsu was spotted in a camp in Meta Province. There have been no further clues to his whereabouts.

His captors have lowered the ransom demand to $10 million from $25 million, but sources involved in the negotiations said the request is still unreasonable.

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