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Iran Press TV

Colombia's ELN rebels plan to free two abducted Dutch TV men

Iran Press TV

Thu Jun 22, 2017 5:10PM

Rebels in Colombia have admitted to abducting two Dutch journalists whom they plan to free as they negotiate peace terms with the government.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) said on Thursday that Derk Johannes Bolt and his cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender were "in good health and will be released".

The journalists work for a TV program that helps Dutch people trace their biological relatives across the globe. On Monday, they were kidnapped in El Tarra, a region in the Norte de Santander district near the Venezuela border.

ELN rebels abducted a Colombian-Spanish journalist and two Colombian TV reporters in May 2016, also in the El Tarra region, before freeing them a couple of days later after negotiations with the abductors.

A humanitarian commission is currently mediating the Dutchmen's release, said Norte de Santander Governor William Villamizar.

He said the Dutch journalists could be set free as early as Thursday. "We are indeed launching a humanitarian operation to allow the Dutch journalists to be delivered by the ELN in Catatumbo department."

Peace talks with ELN

Governor Villamizar said the ongoing peace talks with ELN rebels would continue despite the abductions. "The release does not affect the dialogue being carried out with the ELN," he said.

Villamizar said the military and the ELN had been asked to reduce their operations in the area "so as not to endanger the lives of the Dutch journalists" and in order for them to be moved and released in safe conditions.

However, the government's chief negotiator with the rebels warned on Tuesday that the latest kidnappings would complicate matters and make the ongoing peace talks difficult.

ELN is the country's second largest rebel group. It began its peace talks with the government in February after the biggest rebel group in the country laid down its arms under UN supervision after following a peace deal with President Juan Manuel Santos.

Colombia's largest rebel group, the 7,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signed the peace deal last year, ending half a century of deadly conflict with government forces.

Under the peace deal, scrap metal from the destroyed FARC weapons are to be transformed into peace monuments.

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