Colombia's ELN frees two Dutch journalists

Officials say Derk Bolt and Eugenio Marie, abducted earlier this week, released in rural area in Norte de Santander.

    Colombia's Marxist ELN fighters have released two Dutch journalists they had captured earlier this week, according to officials.

    The ombudsman office, which handles human rights-related issues, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the ELN, or the National Liberation Front, freed reporter Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, and his cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, 58, in a rural area of Norte de Santander state, posting an accompanying photo purporting to show the pair.

    (Translation: In the rural area of Catatumbo, two Dutch journalists were handed over to ombudsman by the ELN.)

    The military said on Monday that the two journalists were captured by the ELN in northeastern Colombia near the border with Venezuela.

    The ELN later confirmed it was holding the pair on Twitter, saying they remained in "perfect condition".

    In an interview with a local radio station following the release, Bolt said the pair were "never threatened with death".

    Ongoing peace talks

    Bolt and Follender work for Spoorloos, a programme on Kro-Ncrv TV that helps Dutch people trace their biological relatives around the world.

    Their capture was the latest in a series of incidents that officials feared could disrupt peace talks between the ELN and the government.

    Earlier this week, the government's chief negotiator with the ELN gave warning that the kidnapping complicated negotiations with the group that began in February.

    In May 2016, ELN fighters kidnapped a Colombian-Spanish journalist and two Colombian TV reporters in the same region.

    They were handed over to intermediaries a few days later.


    The country's biggest armed group, the FARC, is scheduled to complete its disarmament by June 27 under a peace deal it signed last year.

    Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said the FARC would complete their historic disarmament on Friday. He spoke during an official visit to France.

    But UN observers had yet to confirm the formal end to the disarmament process.

    The Colombian conflict erupted in 1964 when the FARC and the smaller ELN took up arms for rural land rights.

    The violence drew in various anti-government and paramilitary forces and drug gangs, as well as state forces.

    The conflict has left at least 260,000 people dead and displaced more than seven million, according to authorities.

    SOURCE: News agencies


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