Colombia’s national anti-kidnapping police (Gaula) on Thursday said that the two German tourists currently held by the country’s second largest rebel group have been in captivity since November of 2012.
Police said the two retired German nationals, named Uwe and Günther Otto Brauer, were kidnapped in the Teorama municipality in the the northern Norte de Santander department on November 3rd.
The two experienced travellers embarked on a journey around the world and visited places like Iraq and Iran without running into trouble, before entering Colombia by land from Ecuador in October.
BACKGROUND: Video of Germans kidnapped in Colombia released.
On the third of November, they were believed to have been kidnapped by ELN rebels under the command of “Camarote,” a mid-ranking left-wing insurgent leader.
The last time the family members of the two tourists, aged 69 and 72, heard from them was in late September, when they said they were about to cross the Colombian border to Venezuela, reported newspaper El Tiempo.
ELN rebels said last week they considered the pair “intelligence agents” who had arrived in the country to do “intelligence or espionage work.”
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said the ELN had to “respond to the world for the lives of the kidnapped Germans. Now that they have recoginzed [that] they have them, we ask for their immediate liberation.”
The ELN, with some 2,500 armed members, have stepped up attacks against security forces recently. ELN rebels on January 18th kidnapped six gold miners, including three foreigners, in the northern Bolivar department.
The rebel group has so far been denied access to the peace talks between the larger rebel group FARC and the government in Havana, Cuba. Camilo Gonzales, the president of the conflict-monitoring NGO Indepaz, said in late January that the ELN should be allowed to participate in peace talks in order for Colombia to experience a lasting peace.
BACKGROUND: ELN could grow to 6K members: NGO