BOGOTA – The smaller of Colombia’s two main leftist guerrilla groups said Thursday it would release two Dutch journalists who were kidnapped last weekend.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) said on Twitter that 52-year-old journalist Derk Bolt and his cameraman, 68-year-old Eugenio Follender, were in good health.
Bolt and Follender were abducted Saturday in Filogringo, a hamlet in the Catatumbo region of the northeastern province of Norte de Santander.
They had traveled there to find the birth mother of a Colombian girl adopted by a couple in the Netherlands, the Dutch foreign ministry said Tuesday, noting that the two men work for a missing-persons reality television show called “Spoorloos” (Without a Trace).
The ELN and several heavily armed criminal gangs have a significant presence in Catatumbo, where in May 2016 fighters with that rebel group kidnapped Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez and subsequently grabbed several Colombian reporters who came to the area to cover the initial abduction.
Hernandez and the Colombian journalists were released a few days later.
The guerrillas, currently engaged in exploratory talks with the Colombian government in Ecuador, said Wednesday they would release the Dutch journalists to a humanitarian commission if they determined that one of their units had kidnapped them.
The head of the Colombian government’s delegation to peace talks with the ELN, Juan Camilo Restrepo, denounced the kidnapping and called it a “clumsy” action.
Colombia’s largest insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is now in the process of demobilizing and handing over its weapons after signing a peace agreement with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos.