EU hails release of journalists kidnapped by Colombian guerillas

The European Union hailed the release by Colombian Marxist rebels of three kidnapped journalists

Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez-Mora was handed over Friday to local priests by the left-wing ELN group, according to a newspaper report citing Gabriel Angel Villabaja, bishop of Ocana in northern Colombia.

Reporter Diego D'Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo, both employees of Colombian television network RCN who went missing earlier this week, were released hours later. They told RCN that they had been treated well.

ELN is a smaller group than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is in peace talks with the central government.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who discussed the abductions during a visit this week in Bogota, said that the release of the journalists was "a great relief."

"I hope this positive step will be accompanied by other confidence-building gestures, that could pave the way to the opening of formal peace negotiations between the government of Colombia and the ELN, thus paralleling the ongoing Havana negotiations between the government and the FARC," she said in a statement from Brussels.

"The current window of opportunity to achieve a genuine peace in Colombia must not be missed."

Mogherini repeated the EU's willingness to provide political and financial support for implementing a peace agreement.

Hernandez-Mora, who writes a column for El Tiempo in Colombia along with reporting for El Mundo in Spain, disappeared May 21 while visiting an ELN-controlled area for research.

She thanked the Catholic Church for its help in securing her freedom, telling the station Noticias Caracol: "It's been very good to me."

The rebel group, with around 2,000 fighters, is much smaller than the more prominent FARC movement.

The ELN is reportedly involved in drug smuggling and extortion, but has said it is interested in its own peace talks with authorities.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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