Venezuelan police free major leaguer Wilson Ramos

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VALENCIA, VENEZUELA (AP) - The kidnapping ordeal of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos ended after two days when Venezuelan police commandos swooped in to rescue him in a flurry of gunfire and arrested four alleged abductors.

Ramos said he was happy and thankful to be alive, and that the final moments had been hair-raising as police and the kidnappers exchanged heavy fire in the remote mountainous area where he was being held.

“It was very hard for me,” Ramos told reporters Saturday morning at a police station in his hometown of Valencia. “It was very hard for my family.”

His eyes tearing up with emotion, Ramos hugged Venezuela’s interior minister and police and National Guard officials at the police station.

Ramos, 24, had not been seen or heard from since he was seized at gunpoint outside his home in Valencia Wednesday night and whisked away in an SUV. It was the first known kidnapping of a Major League Baseball player in Venezuela, and the abduction set off an outpouring of candlelight vigils and public prayers at stadiums as well as outside Ramos‘ home.

With Ramos at his side, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said Saturday that authorities had arrested four of the captors, all of them Venezuelan men in their 20s. A 60-year-old woman and 74-year-old man were also arrested for supplying the kidnappers with food from their home in the area, he said.

Authorities are still searching for four Colombian men who escaped during the rescue, said El Aissami.

He didn’t say whether anyone had been wounded in the gunfire.

Ramos said the kidnappers had made clear to him that they had been following his movements for some time. He said the shooting lasted for about 15 minutes and that he had taken cover.

“They only demanded money,” he said.

Speaking by telephone to state television earlier Saturday, Ramos had said, “I don’t know who those people were. I know they’re Colombians by their accent. Three guys grabbed me there in front of my house, they took me to another SUV and from there they took me into the mountains” in central Carabobo state.

He said his abductors spoke little to him. “They simply told me to cooperate, that they were going to ask for a ton of cash for me.”

“They put me in a room with a bed. I was lying there,” he said. “It was hard for me to think about, if I was going to get out alive first of all … about how my family, my mother were.”

Ramos was to first undergo medical checks at the police station and then be reunited with his family, El Aissami said Friday.

Ramos‘ mother Maria Campos de Ramos celebrated, exclaiming on television: “Thanks to God!”

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