Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Germans seized by Colombian rebels are tourists - Germany
BERLIN (Reuters) - Two German men kidnapped by Colombian rebels are tourists, Germany's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, after their captors suggested they were spies.
The National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group, said on Monday it had captured two men believed to be from Germany and considered them to be intelligence agents because the pair could not explain why they were in the area.
"We have to assume that two German citizens are being held against their will in Colombia," a spokeswoman for the German foreign office said on Tuesday.
"The German citizens are pensioners who were travelling in the region as tourists," she said. The ministry has set up a crisis group to deal with the abduction, she said.
The ELN, considered a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, said in a statement the Germans had been seized in Catatumbo, near the border with Venezuela, and identified them as Uwe Breuer and Gunther Otto Breuer.
The rebel group is not included in the talks underway in Cuba between the Colombian government and the country's largest insurgent group FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, to bring an end to five decades of war.
The ELN, which is attempting to step up pressure on the government to be part of the negotiations, captured two Canadian and two Peruvian gold-mining workers in northern Colombia last month.
The group has battled a dozen governments since it was founded in 1964. Inspired by the Cuban revolution and established by radical Catholic priests, it was close to disappearing in the 1970s but has steadily rebuilt its strength since then.
Both the ELN and FARC have stepped up attacks on Colombian infrastructure this year and last, repeatedly hitting oil pipelines and power lines.
(Reporting by Thorsten Severin; Writing by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Pravin Char)