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Colombia: ICRC facilitates release of five people held by ELN

15-02-2013 News Release 13/22

Geneva / Bogotá (ICRC) – Five civilians held by the National Liberation Army (ELN) since 18 January have been released into the care of a team from the ICRC. The handover took place in a rural area of Bolívar department in northern Colombia.

The released civilians, who work for a mining company, are: William Batista, Manuel Zabaleta and Alexis López from Colombia, Javier Leandro Ochoa and José Antonio Mamani from Peru.

After informing the appropriate authorities, the ICRC transported the men by helicopter to Barrancabermeja city airport, from where they were taken to Bogotá.

"We're delighted to report that the men are in good health and will soon be reunited with their families," said Jordi Raich, head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia. "The ICRC participates in this kind of humanitarian operation in Colombia by virtue of its confidential dialogue with all the parties to the conflict, and of its acceptance and recognition as a neutral intermediary."

The released civilians were captured by the ELN in a rural part of Norosí municipality, in the south of Bolívar department. Since then, the ICRC has been in regular contact with the Colombian authorities and the Peruvian embassy, and the armed group in an effort to facilitate their release.

The ICRC reiterates its willingness to facilitate any future humanitarian operation that helps to relieve the suffering of people affected by the armed conflict. Including this latest operation, since 1994 the ICRC has facilitated the release of more than 1,500 people being held by various armed groups in Colombia, 36 of whom were released in 2012.

For further information, please contact:
María Cristina Rivera (in Spanish), ICRC Bogotá, tel: +57 311 491 07 75
Alexis Heeb (in English, French and Spanish), ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 218 76 10