Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, on Monday confirmed they have captured a Colombian soldier who survived a deadly guerrilla ambush on a military patrol last Wednesday.
Through a statement released on their website, the ELN confirmed that the soldier, Corporal Carlos Fabian Huertes, had been taken prisoner “in the development of the combat,” which the ELN claims resulted in the death of nine soldiers and saw five more wounded when the rebel group made its attack in the Chitaga municipality of northern department, Norte de Santander.
The ELN spoke of less fatalities than authorities, who had said 11 soldiers had died in the ambush. A second soldier who had gone missing and was also feared captured was later found dead.
“In accordance with International Humanitarian Laws our forces gave dignified treatment to the wounded soldiers just as with the military prisoner who remains in our power without any new developments” read the ELN statement in which the rebels also renewed their call for the government to accept to a bilateral ceasefire.
“While we are delivering the news of this victory, we want to reiterate that a bilateral ceasefire is urgent … as it will alleviate the difficult situation of the Colombian population in the middle of this conflict and which can help give more confidence to the peace process in Colombia” said the report, signed by Manuel Vazquez Castano, leader of the Eastern Front of the rebel group.
Both the ELN leaders and the Colombian government have repeatedly signaled their desire to initiate negotiations similar to those currently under way with Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, however President Juan Manuel Santos’ latest statement to this effect specified that the rebels will have to “release all their captives” before the government will consider coming to the negotiation table.
ELN leader Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias “Gabino”, in March declared that the left wing group is ready and willing to discuss peace as and when the government wants, stating “when prior governments have set out their willingness for peace, the ELN has been available. Since last year we have said to President [Juan Manuel] Santos that if public opinion is for peace, they can count on the ELN.”
The ELN, with between 1,500 and 3,000 armed members, has been waging war against the Colombian state for nearly half a century. For many years, the rebel group waged a limited war against the larger rebel group FARC. More recently, however, the two groups have increasingly been cooperating, as evidenced by a series of regional alliances in northern Colombia.
Location of the attack
- Revista Insurreción Edicion No.347 (ELN voces)
- ELN confirma secuestro de soldado en Norte de Santander (El Espectador)