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article imageColombia says ELN rebels holding two Dutch journalists

By AFP     Jun 20, 2017 in World

Two Dutch journalists have been detained in northeastern Colombia by what the police suspect are rebels with the National Liberation Army (ELN), authorities said.

The leftist guerrilla group -- which unlike the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is at war with the government -- neither confirmed nor denied any kidnapping on Twitter, but said they were looking into the case.

"This morning, reporter Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, and his cameraman Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, 58, both Dutch nationals, were stopped" in El Tarra, a region in the Norte de Santander district near the Venezuela border, by presumed ELN rebels, Colombian police said in a statement.

In May 2016 in the same El Tarra region ELN rebels kidnapped a Colombian-Spanish journalist and two Colombian TV reporters. The reporters were handed over to intermediaries a few days later.

The government ombudsman's office demanded on Twitter the "immediate liberation of the two Dutch nationals being held," and said it would try to help solve the situation.

Police specialists in kidnapping and extortion headed to the region to try to secure the release of the two men.

In the Netherlands, a Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed that "two employees of the Spoorloos program are being held against their will in Colombia. The ministry is giving this case the highest priority."

Spoorloos is a program on the Kro-Ncrv channel regularly presented by Derk Bolt, which seeks to help Dutch people trace their biological relatives around the world.

It says on its website that since being launched in 1990 it has received more than 1,000 requests every year for help.

But the Dutch foreign ministry said that "communicating about our efforts is not in the interests of those involved. Therefore we cannot for the moment say anything further about it."

President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN started a peace dialogue in Quito in February, seeking to end more than five decades of fighting.

The country's most numerous rebel group, the FARC, is scheduled to complete its disarmament by June 27.

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