Dutch journalists freed by ELN rebels in Colombia, FM confirms ‘good news’
The rebel group freed reporters in a rural area of Norte de Santander state.world Updated: Jun 24, 2017 12:39 IST
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders Saturday confirmed that two reporters had been freed by ELN rebels in Colombia, saying it was “very good news.”
Reporter Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, and his cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, 58, “are doing pretty well considering the circumstances,” Koenders said in a statement, thanking the Colombian government and adding that the Dutch ambassador had spoken with both men.
Colombia’s ombudsman office, which handles human rights issues, wrote on Twitter that the rebel group freed reporters in a rural area of Norte de Santander state.
The office posted an accompanying photos purporting to show the pair, pictured with some of the rebels, along with Colombian human rights officials.
The announcement came after rebels issued what turned out to be an erroneous announcement earlier Friday stating the two men, who were kidnapped on June 19, had been released.
Officials feared the high-profile kidnapping could disrupt peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government.
The Dutch journalists work for Spoorloos, a program on Kro-Ncrv TV that helps Dutch people trace their biological relatives around the world.
The government of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and ELN opened peace talks on February 7 in Quito, Ecuador, after nearly four years of secret negotiations.
The ELN, with 1,500 fighters, is the last guerrilla group still active in Colombia.
The government is seeking a “complete peace” with the ELN after reaching a peace accord last year with the much larger FARC — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The Colombian civil conflict erupted in 1964 when the FARC and ELN took up arms for rural land rights.
The fighting, which over the years drew in various rebel and paramilitary groups and drug gangs as well as state forces, has left at least 260,000 people dead, according to authorities.