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Missing Spanish journalist in Colombia probably kidnapped by leftist ELN

The Spanish journalist missing in Colombia since Saturday seems to have been kidnapped by the country's second-largest leftist guerrilla group. Ongoing talks to end a 50-year civil war are again on hold.

According to Colombian military sources, Salud Hernandez-Mora, who went missing in a remote area of northeast Colombia, has most likely been kidnapped by the leftist guerrilla group the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's second-largest guerrilla group, which recently entered into talks to end the civil war.

Hernandez disappeared in the Catatumbo region and was last seen in the town of El Tarra, according to a statement by Colombia's defence ministry published on Sunday.

"The difficult-to-access area is controlled by the ELN," the daily El Mundo wrote.

Speaking in Brussels, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the government believed that Hernandez had been taken by the National Liberation Army (ELN).

The Spanish daily for which she worked, El Mundo, wrote online that the news had been confirmed by Colombian military sources. Hernandez also writes for Spain's El Mundo newspaper.

Hernandez was reportedly working on a story on illegal drugs and had been in the area for about 20 days. She is known for opinion columns highly critical of Colombia's insurgent groups.

Deal, what deal?

The government is close to agreeing a deal with the country's largest guerrilla group, the

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

(FARC), and recently started peace negotiations with the ELN.

Officials estimate the ELN currently has some 1,500 members and the FARC about 7,000.

President Santos reacts

"I have ordered security forces to give priority to identifying the location of journalist @saludhernandezm," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on his Twitter account.

Santos has staked his presidency on ending his country's bloody conflict, considered the last major armed confrontation in the Western Hemisphere. Santos has said no talks will begin until all ELN hostages are freed.

Starting as a peasant uprising in the 1960s, the conflict in Colombia has killed over 260,000 people, uprooted 6.6 million people and left another 45,000 missing.

jbh/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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