The commander of Colombia’s army said on Thursday that an agreement has been reached with Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, for the release of six civilian hostages held since mid-January.
Colombia’s army Commander General Sergio Mantilla said the hostages, among them a Canadian and two Peruvians, could be freed “soon.”
“Within this principal agreement [with the ELN] the vice minister of defense, Jorge Enrique Bedoya, continues to coordinate the [operations] in the south of Bolivar,” said the general, according to radio station Caracol.
BACKGROUND: ELN releases five hostages in north Colombia
On Wednesday, ELN claimed to have released five of the hostages. Authorities, however, said to be unaware of any hostage release.
The six civilian gold miners, employed by Canadian mining firm Geoexplorer, were kidnapped on January 18th in the southern part of the northern Bolivar department.
In late November, ELN rebels kidnapped two German tourists in the Catatumbo region of the Norte de Santander department under the pretext that they were foreign “intelligence agents.”
BACKGROUND: ELN kidnaps 2 Germans in northern Colombia
The ELN, with some 2,500 armed members, has yet to gain access to the ongoing peace talks between the government and the larger rebel group FARC in Havana, Cuba.
BACKGROUND: ELN kidnapped miners to force peace talks: Army