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Ecuador says two more abducted on Colombia border
2018/04/18

  QUITO, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador on Tuesday reported the second kidnapping in less than a month along its border with Colombia, following the killings of three other abductees last week.

  The latest victims were identified as an Ecuadorian couple abducted by the Oliver Sinisterra front, the same dissident guerrilla group that was behind the previous kidnapping, Ecuadorian Defense Minister Patricio Zambrano said.

  "The information we have... is that they are Ecuadorians from a province close to Esmeraldas," Zambrano said in a televised address.

  In response to rumors the pair may be members of the military, Zambrano said "we don't have information that they are agents."

  The dissident group, which broke away from Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Force (FARC) after it signed a peace deal with the government, is headed by Walter Patricio Arizala, also known as "Guacho," who ordered the capture and killing of a press team from Ecuador's El Comercio daily.

  The abduction of the two journalists and their driver shocked the nation. They were apparently preparing a report on violence and crime in the border region when the rebels seized them in a bid to negotiate an exchange for three of their own who were in custody.

  Last week, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno traveled to Lima, Peru for a summit, only to turn around and come back after learning the killings of the three.

  According to Ecuador's Interior Minister Cesar Navas, the rebels sent a proof of life video of the kidnapped couple to the government on Monday night via the social networking app Whatsapp.

  "It's the first time that 'Guacho' sends proof of life directly to us through a communications channel, not like on prior occasions when he did it through Colombian media outlets," said Navas, calling the rebels "drug traffickers."

  In the video, "the drug traffickers request through their kidnap victims that their demands be met," he said.

  The footage shows a man and a woman standing and facing a camera, their hands tied, as an armed rebel wearing a hooded mask stands guard on each side.

  In the video, the bound couple ask Ecuador's president to comply with their captors' demands so they do not meet the same fate as the journalists.

  The victims, identified by the government as Oscar Efren Villacis Gomez and Katty Vanesa Velasco Pinargote, are believed to be abducted late Wednesday or early Thursday in the town of San Lorenzo, Esmeraldas.

  Moreno called an emergency meeting of his Public Security Committee to decide "how to proceed given this new threat," said Navas.

  The dissident rebels are looking to ship their drugs out of Ecuador via the Mataje River, which divides the two countries, said the minister.

  Ecuador will resort to "all the military pressure needed to bring peace again to the border area. Ecuador's peace is not to be negotiated with killers," he said.

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