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A member of the ELN rebel group AFP / LUIS ROBAYO
Image: Getty Images/AFP/L. Robayo

Colombian rebels to release Dutch journalists

June 23, 2017

The Marxist insurgents have claimed that the journalists "are in good health and will be released." Observers have expressed concerns that the kidnappings could undermine peace talks launched in February.


The leftist Colombian rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN) on Thursday claimed responsibility for kidnapping two Dutch journalists, promising to surrender them to authorities within days.

Dutch journalist Derk Johannes Bolt and cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, who were searching for the biological mother of a Colombian child adopted by a Dutch couple, "are in good health and will be released," the Marxist rebels said in a statement published on Twitter.

The two men were captured in El Tarra in the restive Norte de Santander region near the Venezuelan border, the same area where a Colombian-Spanish journalist was kidnapped in May.

In February, the Colombian government began peace talks with the rebel group, which launched its insurgency more than 50 years ago.

Observers have questioned whether the kidnapping was aimed at gaining political leverage, a maneuver used often by the last active rebel group in the country.

Dialogue moves forward

However, Norte de Santander Governor William Villamizar said the release "does not affect the dialogue being carried out with the ELN."

He added that Colombian authorities had launched a humanitarian operation to "allow the Dutch journalists to be delivered by the ELN."

Roughly 2,000 men and women form the ELN. Since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government last year, ELN has become the largest insurgent group in the Andean country.

The US State Department and the European Union consider the ELN a terrorist group for its active involvement in kidnappings, attacks on Colombian infrastructure and breaches of humanitarian law.

ls/cmk (AFP, Reuters)

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