June 22, 2017 / 3:16 PM / in a month

Colombia's Marxist ELN rebels to free two Dutch journalists

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's Marxist ELN rebel group said on Thursday that two Dutch journalists it captured this week in the northeastern part of the Andean nation were in good health and would be freed.

Derk Johannes Bolt, 62, a television journalist, and Eugenio Ernest Marie Follender, 58, a television cameraman, were seized in El Tarra in Norte de Santander.

Colombia's military had attributed the kidnapping to the National Liberation Army (ELN), but the group's leadership had said communications with some units were difficult because of fighting and that it was attempting to confirm the whereabouts of the reporters.

"The Northeastern Front reports the Dutch journalists are in good health and will be freed," the group said on Twitter. A statement will be put out once the reporters are liberated, it added.

The 2,000-strong ELN frequently kidnaps Colombians and foreigners, many of whom work in oil operations, for ransom and political leverage.

The ELN, the second-largest rebel group after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is in talks with the government to put an end to more than five decades of war in the country. FARC signed a peace deal last year and is currently demobilizing its guerillas.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in a conflict that pitted the military against the FARC, ELN and right-wing paramilitary armies.

Last year the ELN seized a Spanish journalist, freeing her six days later.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Paul Simao

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