Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia rebels: Eight released after kidnap blamed on ELN

Map of Choco in Colombia

Eight people kidnapped in Colombia at the weekend have been released, President Juan Manuel Santos has said.

Mr Santos credited public pressure with forcing the kidnappers to release the seven men and one woman.

According to the army, gunmen forced the hostages into a boat on Sunday, taking them deep into the jungle in the western Chocó department.

The government had accused the National Liberation Army (ELN) of being behind the kidnapping.

Peace negotiations with the ELN - Colombia's second largest rebel group - started in February and another round of talks is due to begin in Ecuador next week.

The government demands that the rebels stop kidnapping people, as they frequently do, for financial gain.

Details are still unclear about Sunday's incident, which happened in a rural area of the town of Novita, 540km (335 miles) west of the capital, Bogota.

The hostages are seven men and a woman, all of them youngsters, local media report.

Colombia's Defence Minister, Luis Carlos Villegas, said 500 soldiers would be deployed to the region, in addition to the 6,300 men already in the area, a statement said (in Spanish).

The country's chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo, said on Twitter that the kidnappings "hamper enormously" the negotiations with the ELN.

The talks with the group follow a peace agreement between the government and Colombia's largest rebel group, the Farc, last year.

The ELN rebels

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  • The guerrilla group was founded in 1964 with the stated aim of fighting Colombia's unequal distribution of land and riches, inspired by the Cuban revolution of 1959
  • Over the decades, the group has attacked large landholders and multinational companies, and repeatedly blown up oil pipelines
  • To finance itself it has resorted to extortion, kidnappings and drug trafficking
  • It has been strongest in rural areas

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