A TV grab made on October 26, 2016 shows ex-lawmaker Odin Sanchez (seated), held hostage by the ELN rebel group in Colombia. (Via AFP)
Colombia’s second biggest rebel group has killed two civilian truck drivers in a “terrorist attack,” the country’s military says, hours after Bogota suspended peace talks with the group.
“It is simply an act of terrorism against two civilian trucks traveling on the roads of Arauca, which were set on fire and the drivers killed by members of the ELN,” said Colombian Colonel Miguel Angel Rodriguez, referring to the National Liberation Army of Colombia, also known by its Spanish acronym ELN.
The ELN rebels ambushed the empty trucks between 5:00 and 5:30 pm local (2200-2230 GMT) on Thursday, Rodriguez said, AFP reported on Friday.
Government military troops later moved into the area, which is one of the country’s biggest oil-producing regions, military sources said.
Earlier on Thursday, the government had said it had postponed the peace talks with the ELN rebels — originally scheduled for Thursday — until after an ex-lawmaker held hostage by the group is released.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.(Photo by AFP)
While the ELN opposed the unilateral suspension of the talks, Odin Sanchez, the government’s chief negotiator in the peace talks, said the group later began the process of releasing the hostage, adding that the process could take until next week.
The ELN is Colombia’s second largest rebel group, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which signed a peace deal with the government in September. The deal was, however, narrowly rejected in a referendum on October 2. The two sides are now involved in new talks to modify the deal to the satisfaction of its opponents.
President Juan Manuel Santos, whose government led the talks with the FARC, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach the agreement with the FARC despite the deal’s rejection.
Santos on Thursday said the government still wants the peace talks with the ELN to succeed.