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Dutch journalists kidnapped in Colombia

BBC News logo BBC News 20/06/2017

Two Dutch journalists have been abducted in Colombia in an area near the Venezuelan border.

Colombian soldiers near the Venezuelan border on March 23, 2017: The Colombia army has sent specialist forces to search for the men © Getty Images The Colombia army has sent specialist forces to search for the men

Derk Bolt and Eugenio Follender went missing at the weekend in Catatumbo, a region where several armed groups operate, including the left-wing ELN.

They were searching for the mother of a Colombian child adopted in the Netherlands a few years ago.

The Colombian authorities tweeted a demand "for the immediate release of the two men." 

Guerrilla soldiers of the National Liberation (ELN),on patrol in Sarare, 27 February, 2000 in the Department of Arauca © Getty Images Guerrilla soldiers of the National Liberation (ELN),on patrol in Sarare, 27 February, 2000 in the Department of Arauca

Last year the ELN rebel group kidnapped a Spanish journalist and several Colombians in the same area. All were later released.

The Colombian army says it has sent specialist forces to the region to search for the Dutchmen.

They work for the Dutch TV programme Spoorloos, which traces lost relatives. Derk Bolt is a presenter and Eugenio Follender a cameraman.

Finger points at ELN: Natalio Cosoy, BBC Colombia correspondent

The two men were working in the municipality of El Tarra on the border with Venezuela - an area where rebel group the ELN (the National Liberation Army) is strong.

There are strong suspicions that the group was responsible.

Last year in the same area Spanish-Colombian journalist Salud Hernández Mora was kidnapped by the ELN, as were two Colombian journalists, Diego D'Pablos and Carlos Melo, who had gone to the area to cover the story.

Map locator © BBC Map locator

When I asked the ELN's spokesperson about the kidnapping of the Dutch journalists he said: "There is nothing to say."

The ELN is the second largest left-wing guerrilla group in Colombia, behind the Farc.

The Farc signed a peace deal with the government last November and are already disarming and preparing to enter civilian life. The ELN only started peace talks in February this year.

The group has insisted on a bilateral ceasefire but the government says this would be conditional on the ELN ending kidnapping - something that has not yet happened.

During the negotiations there have been military operations against that insurgent group as well as attacks against security forces by the ELN.

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