Alleged rebels from Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, have kidnapped the mayor of a town in the west of the country, local media reported on Thursday.
Fredys Palacios, the mayor of Alto Baudo in the Pacific Choco state, was kidnapped on Tuesday while traveling by boat together with 11 adults and five children.
After arriving at a place known as La Playa, alleged rebels from the ELN seized the boat, abducting the mayor while leaving the other passengers of the boat behind.
According to authorities, local ELN unit commander “El Mocho” is behind the kidnapping.
The Colombian Federation of Municipalities and the country’s ombudsman rejected the kidnapping and demanded Palacios’ immediate release.
Choco Government Secretary Calimeño Mena told press that the mayor had been threatened before his kidnapping.
“He even requested us to transfer his office to another municipality or the capital of Choco,” the state official told Medellin radio station W.
According to the official, five of Choco’s 30 mayors have been threatened.
The National Protection Unit, the state organism in charge of the personal security of people at risk, “has ignored the situation of vulnerability of public officials and mayors. Including all staff working at peacekeeping are unprotected,” said Mena.
According to local media, no person or group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The ELN made no announcements regarding the kidnapping on its website and Twitter feed.
President Juan Manuel Santos and the rebels announced in June that they were in the exploratory stage for an eventual peace process to end 50 years of internal conflict. The ELN has since then said these talks are deadlocked.
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