BOGOTA – A dozen fishermen who had been abducted by Colombia’s ELN guerrilla group have been freed in an army operation, President Juan Manuel Santos announced Sunday.
The operation took place in the northern town of Morales. Santos made the announcement in a Twitter post, congratulating the army.
The authorities had reported the abduction by rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) on Saturday, saying it took place in the town of Samoa, in the southern part of Bolivar department.
The insurgents allegedly detained the men because they violated an ELN ban on fishing in the area, officials said. The rebel group has not claimed the action.
The southern part of Bolivar department has historically been a stronghold of the ELN, as well as of other smaller guerrilla groups.
Since January 2014, the ELN has been locked in talks with the Colombian government aimed at setting an agenda for initiating a formal peace process.
The government and the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), opened peace talks in November 2012 in Havana and have reached agreement on four of six agenda items.
FARC has an estimated 8,000 fighters; the ELN, about 2,500.