ELN guerrillas delivered two Colombian soldiers to the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday, days after the officials incidentally walked into a guerrilla patrol after having fled their army barracks.
The soldiers of the Engineer Battalion had escaped from the military base in the northeastern Arauca province, apparently to defect.
However, instead of enjoying their liberty, the two were picked up by surprised ELN guerrillas — at war with the state since 1964 and particularly strong in Arauca — who detained the men and alerted the ICRC about their capture.
The guerrillas then coordinated the soldiers’ surrender to the Red Cross, who in turn returned the soldiers to the barracks from they had escaped.
“It is important to communicate that the soldier Edwin Remer Villamil, has engaged in three situations of AWOL from where he serves, being subsequently located by the troops,” reads a statement issued by the Eighth Army Division.
The alleged desertion will be investigated by the institution, while they will also inform the competent judicial authorities to prosecute the soldiers.
The two face charges for trying to escape their military duty.
Many soldiers are not in the Colombian army voluntarily, but compulsory. While rich Colombians can easily buy their way out of the army, this is far more difficult for poor Colombians who in some cases are recruited by illegal raids carried out in cities.
The ELN, estimated to consist of between 1,500 and 2,500 fighters, is currently engaged in peace talks with the government. However, as these talks have yet to be formalized, both parties continue carrying out hostilities.