Colombia guerrilla group the ELN releases six prisoners

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s biggest active guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), released six hostages on Sunday in the north east of the country, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

The ELN has now freed eight hostages in the last three days after the leftist rebel group released two people on Friday.

The release of the kidnap victims on Sunday, including two police officers and four civilians, took place in a rural zone of Colombia’s North Santander province, which is close to the border with Venezuela.

“ICRC teams that visited the areas verified the six people were in adequate health conditions for their transfer,” the human rights group said in a statement.

The police officers were held captive for 75 days, while one of the civilians, a woman, had been held by the ELN for four months.

On Friday, the group released two employees of an oil-services company in the province of Arauca, which is also close to the border with Venezuela.

Made up of 2,000 fighters and considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union, the ELN carried out an attack with a car bomb in January 2019 at a police academy in Bogota, killing 22 cadets.

The attack ended the possibility of talks with the government of President Ivan Duque.

The president has refused to enter negotiations with the guerrilla group until it stops kidnappings and recruiting minors, frees hostages it currently holds and stops attacking infrastructure - such as oil pipelines - in the Andean country.

While the ELN has failed to reach a peace agreement with previous governments, its chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, said in May the group was open to participating in a global three-month ceasefire being discussed at the United Nations as the world contends with the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Bill Berkrot