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article imageColombia confirms identity of murdered Ecuadoran couple

By AFP     Jul 4, 2018 in Crime

Two bodies found in the thick jungle of southwestern Colombia are those of an Ecuadorian couple kidnapped by a dissident FARC rebel group, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Ecuador's Communication Ministry had said on Tuesday that the bodies "could" be those of Oscar Villacis, 24, and Katty Velasco, 20, who went missing on April 17.

Colombian forensic authorities have now confirmed their identity.

Their kidnapping had been claimed by the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a rebel group led by ex-FARC guerrilla Walther Arizala, who goes by the alias Gaucho.

Arizala's group also claimed the kidnapping and murder of two Ecuadoran journalists and their driver, who went missing in March before their bodies were found by Colombian soldiers two weeks ago in the same jungle border area between the two countries.

The director of Colombia's Legal Medicine Institute, Carlos Valdes, said the couple had been dead for "approximately two months."

Their disappearance and murder, and that of the press team, has strained relations between Colombia and Ecuador.

After the first abductions, the two countries had launched a joint military operation against Arizala.

The thick jungle border area has been wracked by drug-related violence ever since the dissolution of FARC, which fought a 30-year guerrilla war against the Colombian government.

Four Ecuadoran soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in March.

The FARC transformed itself into a political party following a landmark peace agreement signed in 2016.

But it says some 40 former rebels have since been killed in military operations and by right-wing groups.

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