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South America

Colombia's Marxist rebels kidnap two Dutch journalists

Despite ongoing peace talks, the leftist rebel group ELN has abducted two journalists near the Venezuelan border. Colombian officials have demanded ELN release the hostages immediately or face retaliatory measures.

The Colombian military on Monday said the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group kidnapped two Dutch journalists near the Venezuelan border.

The journalists had been searching in El Tarra in the restive Norte de Santander region for the biological mother of a Colombian child adopted by a Dutch couple.

Read more: Peace, plants and hip hop in Colombia

The federal ombudsman's office in a statement demanded the Marxist rebel group release TV journalist Derk Bolt and cameraman Eugenio Ernest. The military said it launched an operation to secure the journalists' safety.

ELN, an active rebel group comprising roughly 2,000 men and women, often use Colombian and foreign abductees as bargaining chips for ransom or political leverage.

Since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, ELN has become the largest insurgent group in the Andean country.

'Complete peace'

In February, the Colombian government and ELN formally started negotiations aimed at securing a "complete peace" after more than five decades of civil conflict.

In 1964, FARC rebels led an insurgency against the government in response to the brutal repression of a peasant uprising. The conflict drew in right-wing paramilitary groups, criminal organizations and other leftist groups, such as the ELN.

Read more: Rediscovering Colombia without war

The conflict has left more than 250,000 people dead, seven million displaced and 50,000 disappeared. It represents the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America.

The EU and US State Department consider the ELN a terrorist organization for its kidnappings, armed attacks on Colombian infrastructure and breaches of humanitarian law.

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ls/rg (EFE, Reuters, dpa)

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