Colombia’s second largest rebel group ELN has kidnapped five gold mine employees to force the government to include the guerrillas in peace talks currently held with the larger FARC group, said the country’s military chief Friday.
According to Armed Forces commander General Alejandro Navas, the rebel organization has used several methods — both violent and non-violent — over the past while to convince the government of Juan Manuel Santos to initiate peace talks to end the ELN’s 48-year-old insurgency.
“This subversive group applies different forms of fighting. They have economic and political motives … They have the interest in drawing the government’s attention to initiate talks,” Navas told press.
However, the military chief did not rule out the kidnapping of a Canadian, two Peruvians and two Colombians was carried out to serve the group’s “economic interests.”
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon on Saturday announced he had sent a special forces battalion to the Bolivar department where the kidnapping took place “to help close the circle and increase the pressure” on the kidnappers.
The kidnapping the first hostage-taking of foreigners since June 2011 when the FARC kidnapped four Chinese oil workers in the south of the country. These hostages were released in November last year when Colombia’s largest rebel group began peace talks with the government.