Monday, 17 November 2014

Rebels snatch Colombia army general

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Government says General Ruben Dario Alzate was taken by FARC as he traveled by motor boat along a remote river.


Authorities in Colombia have launched a massive search and rescue mission for an army general who they suspect was taken captive by FARC rebels, prompting the government to suspend peace talks.

General Ruben Dario Alzate and two civilians were abducted on Sunday afternoon while traveling by motor boat along a remote river in western Colombia to survey an energy project.

A fourth soldier managed to flee the ambush and reported that the captors were members of a FARC brigade.

FARC has not commented on the allegations.

"Negotiations with #FARC are suspended until the facts of the kidnapping of
general Alzate are clarified," Colombia's Ministry of Defense said in a tweet citing President Manuel Santos Santos, following a meeting between the president and military leaders.

If confirmed, it would be the first time in a half-century of conflict that the rebels have taken an army general hostage, Colombian media reported.

It also comes as frustration with two-year-old peace talks between the rebels and the government is building due to an apparent refusal by the guerrilla fighters to wind down attacks in areas where they remain dominant.

Santos immediately ordered the top military commander and his defense minister to travel to the western capital of Quibdo to oversee the rescue operation.

He also is demanding to know why one of Colombia's most-distinguished soldiers apparently violated military protocol and set off the on the river journey dressed as a civilian.

"Let it be clear to the entire country: when a kidnapping occurs the only ones responsible are the kidnappers, in this case the FARC terrorists,'' Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said late on Sunday night.

He added that the government had also contacted the International Red Cross to facilitate an eventual release of the hostages.

The US-educated Alzate took over as commander this year of the newly established Titan Task Force, a 2,500-man fighting force comprised of army and marine personnel sent to combat the rebels and drug-traffickers in the remote. water-logged jungles surrounding Quibdo.

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