Four geologists have been kidnapped in a rural area of northern Colombia, according to the country’s geological agency SGC, which said ELN leftist rebels are the likely culprits.
A group of people “intercepted and apparently detained” the geologists, employees of the company GEMI S.A.S. who were working as contractors for the SGC in the state of Norte de Santander, the service said in a statement on Saturday.
It said it has not yet been able to reestablish communication with the kidnap victims.
The geologists “apparently were approached by the ELN (National Liberation Army),” which has a strong presence in the area, the National Police commander for Norte de Santander, Colonel John Jairo Aroca, told reporters.
They were abducted Thursday in the rural district of Santa Ines, part of the municipality of El Carmen, while conducting a water study, Aroca added.
Although the SGC did not provide the names of the four victims, local media identified them as Henry Botero, John Rios, Hernan Ayala and Karina Banquez.
The geologists’ work was essential for planning development and human activities in that area of the country, the service said.
The Colombian government and the ELN are currently involved in “exploratory dialogues” intended to lead to the opening of peace negotiations like the ones Bogota has held for more than two years in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America’s largest insurgency.