Alleged Colombian ELN rebels kidnap oil engineer

AFP , Saturday 13 Jan 2018

Gunmen claiming to belong to Colombia's last rebel group kidnapped an engineer in the country's east, police said Saturday, after peace talks broke down between the ELN rebels and Bogota.

The 41-year-old Colombian petroleum engineer was abducted from an office in Saravena, near the border with Venezuela, by "two masked men with pistols who identified themselves as members of the ELN," police said in a statement.

The kidnapping took place just ahead of a visit Saturday to Colombia by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who supports peace negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.

Santos on Wednesday announced the peace talks were suspended in response to what he said were guerrilla attacks.

Talks had been set to resume in neighboring Ecuador, but a 101-day ceasefire expired without agreement to extend it.

A pact with the ELN would close the last chapter of a half-century conflict in the South American nation, following a deal struck by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Santos in November 2016 with the much larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.

Under that peace deal, the FARC has disarmed, demobilized its fighters, and transformed into a political party using the same acronym.

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