ELN rebels release two kidnapped Colombian journalists

Bogota : At least two Colombian journalists, kidnapped by ELN rebels and held for four days have been freed, their employer Noticias RCN said on Saturday.

The guerrillas released Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo on Friday, just hours after setting free Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez-Mora, who had spent six days as a captive, Efe news reported.

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The Colombian reporters had travelled to the Catatumbo region, near Colombia’s border with Venezuela, to report on Hernandez-Mora’s disappearance.

“We’re in good health; that I can say,” D’Pablos said, confirming he and his colleague were released near El Tarra, a town in Catatumbo.

They had been kidnapped on Monday, two days after Hernandez-Mora was grabbed by the rebels in the same region.

President Juan Manuel Santos said it appeared the Spanish journalist, who disappeared from El Tarra, had travelled to Catatumbo with the intention of doing a story on the ELN.

Hernandez-Mora is a correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, and she also writes for Colombian daily El Tiempo.

D’Pablos thanked the Catholic Church, El Tarra Mayor Juan de Dios Toro and “all the people who intervened” to secure their release.

D’Pablos said he and Melo were forced to undertake a long march and described the conditions in the Catatumbo rainforest, where the ELN, the bigger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group, members of the Popular Liberation Army and criminal gangs are active, as “harsh”.

“It’s something we’d never experienced. We walked a lot. We exerted ourselves a lot too,” D’Pablos said.

“We celebrate the release of Diego D’Pablos and Carlos Melo,” Santos said late Friday on Twitter, reiterating that the ELN would not be able to hold peace talks with the government (as the FARC have been doing) unless they release “all their captives and definitively renounce this crime against humanity”.