Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the ELN, has released a Dutch citizen who had been kidnapped inside rebel territory in the northeast of the country in January, the Red Cross said Wednesday.
The 52-year-old Dutchman was surrendered to delegates of the Red Cross and the Catholic Church in a rural area of the Norte de Santander state, a rebel hotspot bordering neighboring Venezuela.
The man’s kidnapping had not been made public by the ELN or authorities.
“We are happy to have contributed to the release of this man,” Red Cross Colombia chief Christoph Harnisch said in a press release.
According to the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the released hostage is in good health, Dutch public television broadcaster NOS reported,
“I extend my gratitude to the Colombian authorities and the International Red Cross for their efforts and the collaboration with The Netherlands in this case,” Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said.
The government of The Netherlands had been actively involved in negotiations to release the man, said the NOS.
The ELN, estimated to have approximately 1,500 fighters, has been active in Colombia since 1964. Like the FARC, by far Colombia’s largest rebel group, the ELN have tried for years to force a overthrow of the Colombian state, which according to the rebels is run by an oligarchy.
The group is holding exploratory peace talks with the government in an attempt to find a political solution to the group’s 50 years of armed attacks on the state.
The ELN has kidnapped foreigners — mainly oil and mining personnel — over the past years. The NOS said the released hostage was “probably a tourist.”
Red Cross press release