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Alleged Colombian ELN rebels kidnap oil engineer

AFP News
A member of the "Omar Gomez" Western Front of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas, pictured in November 2017 at a camp in the Choco department, in northwestern Colombia

Gunmen claiming to belong to Colombia's last rebel group kidnapped an engineer in the country's east, police said Saturday, after peace talks broke down between the ELN rebels and Bogota.

Rafael Andres Rian, a 41-year-old Colombian petroleum engineer was abducted from an office in Saravena, near the border with Venezuela, by "two masked men with pistols who identified themselves as members of the ELN," police said in a statement.

The kidnapping took place just ahead of the arrival in Bogota of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who supports peace negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.

Guterres was scheduled to meet with Santos on Saturday afternoon and members of the UN mission, which monitors compliance with the peace agreement between the government and guerrila group turned political party FARC.

But experts say international input is "not enough" to prompt a return to the negotiating table or any changes in position.

"The visit will not have a great impact on the negotiations' resumption," international affairs expert Arlene Tickner told AFP.

Santos on Wednesday announced the peace talks were suspended in response to what he said were guerrilla attacks.

Talks had been set to resume in neighboring Ecuador, but a 101-day ceasefire expired without agreement to extend it.

A pact with the ELN would close the last chapter of a half-century conflict in the South American nation, following a deal struck by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Santos in November 2016 with the much larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.

Under that peace deal, the FARC has disarmed, demobilized its fighters, and transformed into a political party using the same acronym.

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