After two German tourists were kidnapped by Colombian insurgents, the German government on Tuesday created a “crisis team” dedicated to extracting the German nationals.
Two Germans were kidnapped by Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, in the Catattumbo region in northern Colombia near the Venezuelan border. The rebels on Monday confirmed that they had kidnapped two German “intelligence agents” who they refer to as “Breur Uwe” and “Breuer Gunther Otto.”
“[During] the weeks [that] they have been detained, they have not been able to justify their presence and are thus, until now, considered intelligence officials,” announced the ELN.
On Wednesday, German authorities said the kidnapped men were brothers of 69 and 72 years. They had come to Colombia as part of an eco-tourism trip in South America, according to radio station Caracol.
Colombia’s immigration authorities on Tuesday said that the two German kidnap victims entered Colombia with tourist visas.
Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos categorically denied the ELN’s allegation that the victims were spies.
“Now the ELN come to us with the story that the two Germans….were kidnapped because they were spies…this is an excuse that nobody in their right mind would believe or accept, because it is a lie,” said Santos.
“We demand that the ELN release them…only the ELN are responsible to the world for the lives of these two Germans.”
Nevertheless, the German foreign ministry on Tuesday created a “crisis team” comprised of German anti-kidnapping specialists who will purportedly work in coordination with their Colombian counterparts.
“Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has activated a crisis team, which is in contact with all relevant organs and is working hard [to find] for more information,” said a German foreign ministry spokesperson.
The ELN, with some 2,500 armed members, has so far been denied access to the ongoing peace talks between Colombia’s larger rebel group, the FARC, and the government.
The ELN’s top commander, alias “Gabino,” on Monday said that “peace was not an easy path to take, but it is necessary to take it, and we are ready to do it.”