In a statement delivered to the families of journalist Elida Parra and environmental engineer Gina Uribe, the ELN confirmed it has taken the two women hostage. Parra and Uribe were kidnapped from their homes in Saravena, Arauca, last week.
According to the rebels, both women are in good health. Parra’s husband has called on the International Committee of the Red Cross to arrange for their release.
The rebel group also took responsibility for murdering engineer Ricardo Mora two weeks ago, who worked together with the kidnapped women for the Bicentennial Oil Pipeline. The $4.2 billion construction project is set to be Colombia’s longest pipeline, carrying crude oil along the Venezuelan border to Caribbean ports.
In the same statement, the ELN threatened further attacks on oil pipelines in the northeastern Norte de Santander department such as the 770 km long Caño Limon-Coveñas pipeline owned by Colombia’s state-run petroleum company Ecopetrol.
The ELN and FARC are both operating in the oil-rich Arauca department, which has seen an upsurge in violent attacks by both groups in recent weeks. According to Arauca’s police chief, the ELN has the strongest presence in the area after it won a bloody five-year war with the FARC for control of the department. Think Tank Arco Iris describes rural Arauca as operating under a de facto ELN state.