Colombia’s second largest rebel group ELN on Tuesday released a Canadian miner whom they had held hostage since January, the Colombian Red Cross confirmed.
Representatives of the International Red Cross (ICRC), the Archbishop of Cali Dario de Jesus Monsalve and Francisco de Roux, the leader of the Jesuit Church in Colombia, recovered Jernoc Wobert in the mountains of the Bolivar department, close to where the Canadian was originally kidnapped.
“An ICRC doctor examined Mr Wobert to check his overall health, and we are glad to confirm that he will soon be reunited with his family,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, Jordi Raich.
Wobert was taken hostage in the Bolivar on January 18 in what the ELN called an “action in defense of national sovereignty and national resources.”
The rebel group had claimed that Wobert’s employers, Canadian mining firm Braeval had “used deceit to snatch mining rights away from communities”, and insisted that Wobert would only be released once the firm had relinquished all mining titles. Braeval subsequently announced to retreat from Colombia.
President Juan Manuel Santos made the release of the Canadian a condition for joining the peace talks currently being held with main rebel group FARC. In a speech published on the rebels’ website hours before the Canadian’s release, ELN leader “Gabino” reiterated his organization’s wish to join peace talks that would end the ELN’s almost 50-year old war against the Colombian state.