BOGOTA – The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group said on Tuesday it kidnapped the soldier who disappeared last week in eastern Colombia, with the announcement coming a week before peace talks start with the government.
The soldier, identified as Fredy Moreno Mahecha, was reported missing on Jan. 24 in the eastern province of Arauca, which is on the border with Venezuela.
Moreno’s family had reported that he had disappeared.
The ELN’s Eastern War Front said in a statement that it abducted Moreno and was willing to release him.
Moreno, who was assigned to the Virgen army base in Norte de Santander province, “was captured” while doing “espionage work between Saravena and La Esmeralda, municipality of Arauquita,” the ELN said.
Moreno “is being treated well and is in good health,” the ELN said, adding that the government and security forces would be responsible for “any impediment that prevents the release” of the soldier.
The ELN and government announced 10 months ago that they would hold peace talks in Quito, Ecuador, but the negotiations have not started because the guerrilla group has failed to release all of its captives, a condition set by President Juan Manuel Santos.
The guerrilla group agreed to release former Congressman Odin Sanchez Montes de Oca, who was abducted in April 2016, on Feb. 2.
The government and ELN are expected to start the peace negotiations on Feb. 7.