QUITO – Police and armed forces personnel rescued two foreign tourists – an Australian and a Briton – who were kidnapped last week by unidentified individuals in Ecuador’s Sucumbios province, which is on the border with Colombia, officials said.
The two women, who were rescued on Saturday in the Amazonian region, are in good condition, Interior Minister Jose Serrano said Sunday.
Serrano and Defense Minister Miguel Carvajal traveled to Sucumbios on Sunday to meet with the tourists and bring them back to Quito, where doctors examined them.
“They are in good spirits, their health is good,” Serrano told reporters.
The women were abducted last Friday by “common criminals,” the interior minister said.
The security forces are still searching for the kidnappers, Serrano said.
The tourists were in the Cuyabeno area when they were abducted, but the kidnappers “could not get them out of the reserve” because of the military and police units deployed to find the women, the interior minister said.
The kidnappers left the women behind when they spotted helicopters flying over the area, but the suspects are “in the area and police and the armed forces are in the process of apprehending them,” Serrano said.
“Hundreds of soldiers closed off the border, we closed off the border, we mobilized helicopters and these scoundrels had to leave the girls behind,” Security Minister Homero Arellano said.
“Obviously, this affects us as a country, the tourism, but let’s not forget that in many sectors of the border there is no presence of the Colombian state, but the FARC is there,” Arellano said, referring to Colombia’s oldest and largest leftist guerrilla group.
Tougher “measures should be taken with these scoundrels, against this organized crime group that lost its ideology a long time ago,” Arellano said.
Investigators are trying to determine “if there is a link between this crime and the organized illegal groups in Colombia,” Arellano said.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was founded in 1964.
The FARC is on both the U.S. and EU lists of terrorist groups. Drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping-for-ransom are the FARC’s main means of financing its operations.
President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration and the FARC plan to hold talks to lay out the framework for a peace dialogue.
FARC representatives said the first meeting with government negotiators would take place on Oct. 8 in Oslo.