Two petrol company employees have been freed in the northeast of Colombia after being kidnapped by armed men last Sunday.
In a press release, Arauca state police disclosed that the two workers for an oil pipeline project had been returned to freedom along the highway connecting the towns of Tame to Fortul in north-east Colombia, reports Caracol Radio.
The two employees had been kidnapped by an illegal armed group at midday last Sunday on the same main road in the rural area of Caranal.
The kidnappers did not identify themselves as belonging to any organization, according to testimonies received by the police. Coolombia’s two largest rebel groups, the FARC and the ELN, both operate in the area.
The abduction occurred when the armed men forged an illegal squad and inspected the car they were driving, consequently seizing the industrial engineer Narda Rangel and another worker who chose to remain anonymous.
The criminals’ main objective was reportedly to gather information regarding the Bicentennial Pipeline – a 143-mile-long oil pipeline which carries crude oil for export to the port of Covenas, Sucre on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast.
The two employees were working for SICIM – a subcontractor providing industrial security for the firm responsible for the pipeline’s construction.
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo also reported severe disturbances in various Araucan police stations in the early hours of Monday, including a frag grenade attack and forced entry with firearms in a police garrison, as well as the burning of a $200,000 excavator belonging to the oil pipeline constructors.
The million dollar pipeline has been targeted by armed rebel groups since construction began a few years ago, becoming a primary location of terrorist attacks and the kidnapping of employees.
The ELN recently pledged to stop attacking the country’s oil infrastructure if the government agreed to compromises that would end the “environmental and social damage caused by the exploitation of natural oil.”