April 17, 2018 / 1:20 PM / in 7 days

Ecuador's government gets 'proof of life' video of kidnapped couple

QUITO (Reuters) - A group of Colombian rebels active on the border with Ecuador has sent a “proof of life” video of a kidnapped couple, Ecuador’s government said on Tuesday, the second abduction by the group in less than a month.

Colombian photographers leave the cameras on the floor in front of the Ecuadorean embassy to protest against the murder of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and their driver Efrain Segarra in Bogota, Colombia April 16, 2018. Picture taken April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

Two journalists and their driver were killed last week while being held by the group, made up of former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who refused to demobilize under a 2016 peace deal.

In Tuesday’s video, the bound couple, identified by the government as Oscar Efren Villacis Gomez and Katty Vanesa Velasco Pinargote, ask Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno to comply with their captors’ demands so they do not meet the same fate as the journalists.

FILE PHOTO: Colombian journalists gather in front of the Ecuadorean embassy to protest against the murder of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and their driver Efrain Segarra in Bogota, Colombia April 16, 2018. Picture taken April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

The couple had been traveling to San Lorenzo, in Esmeraldas province near the border with Colombia, but the details of the kidnapping are still unclear, the government said.

Colombian journalists gather in front of the Ecuadorean embassy to protest against the murder of journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and their driver Efrain Segarra in Bogota, Colombia April 16, 2018. Picture taken April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

“The last telephone contact with their family was on Wednesday night and later on Thursday night [the family] got a text message, which is being analyzed,” Interior Minister Cesar Navas told journalists.

Ecuador is offering a $100,000 reward for information about Walter Artizala, who goes by the alias Guacho and leads the group, and is conducting joint military operations with Colombia in the border area.

Navas said the group is demanding the release of captured members, some of whom were detained in raids over the weekend.

“They are cowards because they use human shields to blackmail the Ecuadorean people. They want to steal the peace we’ve had, but we won’t allow it,” Navas said.

On Monday, Moreno gave the group 10 days to surrender.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao

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