Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, has released four geologists who had been kidnapped little over a month ago, the Red Cross said Tuesday.
According to the humanitarian organization, the four men were released in Norte de Santander, a state in the northeast of the country with a relatively strong presence of the guerrilla group.
The Red Cross said that the rebels had delivered their hostages to a commission of members of its organization and the Catholic Church.
Medics checked the geologists immediately after their release and concluded all were in the adequate condition to be driven to a nearby city and be reunited with their families.
“We know that the families and the loved ones of these people have been waiting for them and we are happy to be able to help them reunite soon,” Red Cross Colombia director Christoph Harnisch said in a press release.
The four geologists were kidnapped in the El Carmen municipality while conducting a water study.
According to the Red Cross, the geologists were the last of eight hostages they helped to release in the course of this year. In 2014, the Red Cross was called to help with the release of 19 hostages.
Since 1994, the organization said, the Red Cross helped release more than 1,500 hostages.
Colombia was particularly infamous for the prevalence of kidnapping between the 1980s and the early 2000s when guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN began kidnapping civilians to fund their illegal armed forces with ransom money.
Additionally, common criminals have used the tactic to extort victims.
However, following major security improvements in the first decade of this century, the number of kidnappings dropped dramatically.
While in 2000 more than 3,500 people were kidnapped in Colombia, by 2014 this had dropped to 282.
Red Cross press release