Eight more people were allegedly kidnapped in western Colombia on Sunday amid ongoing warfare between Marxist ELN guerrillas and paramilitary group AGC, a.k.a. “Los Urabeños,” according to authorities.
The mayor of the municipality of Novita where the kidnapping took place on Sunday told media it has yet to be confirmed who may be responsible
“I was told that armed men took seven men and a woman from [the village of] Sesego this morning. We can not say which illegal armed group they belong to. But the Army is already making itself present in the area,” said Novita Mayor Deyler Eduardo Camacho, reported local media.
The most recent alleged multiple kidnapping came only weeks after eight were kidnapped, allegedly by AGC paramilitaries. At least two of these victims were later found dead.
In response to the incident, civilian and military authorities will convene a security council will be set up to establish the facts surrounding the disappearance of the locals and determine further action.
“No complaint has been filed, so it is best to go to the place and talk with the Mayor about what the villagers informed him of and, based on this design a plan of action. The first thing is to go to the village and talk to the relatives of the young people,” General Mauricio Moreno, the commander of the Titan Joint Task Force, told media.
The kidnappings come as the territorial war between the Marxist inspired ELN rebels and the right-wing AGC rages on with the Choco province being of extreme strategic importance for both groups.
“This is in addition to a string of violent acts that have been registered in the department within the framework of a territorial and population dispute that illegal armed groups hold,” Choco Ombudsman Luis Murillo told reporters.
The jungle municipalities of Choco have long been considered traditional ELN territory but have recently come under military pressure from the army and the AGC.
The paramilitary group, led by former AUC mid-level commander “Otoniel,” has been pushing its way down the Pacific coast since 2011 and have previously clashed with the now-demobilizing FARC guerrilla group that controlled the northeast of Choco, and “Los Rastrojos,” a Cali-based drug cartel.
Not only is the remote area an important drug trafficking route, it has been the ELN’s only stronghold in the west of the country for years.
Additionally, the area is rich in gold, which has been an increasingly important revenue generator for both illegal armed groups.
While at war in Colombia, the ELN is holding peace talks with the government in Quito, Ecuador.
The government has so far refused to hold talks with the AGC, claiming it is not a legitimate insurgent group, but an organized crime organization.
Choco has been the scene of extreme violence for decades. Two thirds of the province’s inhabitants are registered victims of Colombia’s 53-year armed conflict.