June 20, 2017 / 1:50 AM / 5 months ago

Two Dutch journalists kidnapped in Colombia by ELN rebels

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Two Dutch journalists have been captured by Marxist ELN rebels in a conflict area of northeastern Colombia, the military said on Monday.

Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, a television journalist, and Eugenio Ernest Marie, 58, a television cameraman, were seized while working in El Tarra in Norte de Santander, which borders Venezuela, according to a military statement.

“We have established that members of the Frente Hector of the ELN appear to have kidnapped the journalists,” the statement said.

The 2,000-strong National Liberation Army (ELN) frequently kidnaps Colombians and foreigners, many of whom work in oil operations, for ransom and political leverage.

The ELN, the second biggest insurgent group, is in peace talks with the government to put an end to more than five decades of war in the Andean nation.

The biggest rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), signed a peace accord late last year and is expected to complete disarmament this week.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in a conflict that pit the military against FARC, ELN and right wing paramilitary armies since it began in 1952.

Last year the ELN seized a Spanish journalist, a long-term Colombia resident, and freed her six days later.

The area of Norte de Santander also has several crime gangs trafficking drugs.

The armed forces have launched operations to find the two Dutch reporters.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Helen Murphy; Editing by Bill Trott

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