Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno says it is highly likely that three press workers kidnapped along the conflictive border were killed and is giving their captors 12 hours to demonstrate they remain alive before he orders a major military operation against them.
The journalist Javier Ortega (36 years old), the photographer Paúl Rivas (45 years old) and the driver Efraín Segarra (60 years old) were kidnapped in the Mataje area, in the province of Esmeraldas, bordering with Colombia when they were reporting for the newspaper El Comercio on the growing insecurity in the area since January.
In response, the government pledged to do "everything possible and impossible so that they return safe and sound", a presidential spokesman said. "We have not received proof of life and we, unfortunately, have information confirming the death of our fellow countrymen".
"We have resumed. military and police operations in the strip of land by the border where they were previously suspended and I am immediately sending in a deployment of elite units from the army and the police", he said.
They were kidnapped on March 26 on the border of Colombia and Ecuador, according to the newspaper.
The bloodshed highlights problems ahead for governments in both countries, which in 2016 celebrated the signing of peace accords between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, and the Colombian government. He also said that he has contacted the Catholic Church and the International Red Cross, among other organisations, for help to "locate and repatriate" the bodies of the abductees. "I spoke with Moreno, and I reiterated that he has and will have all of my support, and that of our armed forces and the Colombian people", he tweeted on Thursday night.
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The court said in this case it pronounced the jail term to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. She has now pleaded guilty to seven counts of obtaining property by deception.
Colombia denied any rescue attempt and a day later a photograph appeared - which has not been released - that media has reported shows the bodies of three men.
Moreno's promise of a "devastating" military response was seen by many as a tacit acknowledgement that both governments had been too restrained.
A proof of life video was released last month showing the men calling on that country's authorities to release three unidentified combatants and end anti-narcotics cooperation with Colombia in exchange for their freedom.
Speaking on the sidelines of the VIII Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos condemned the killings: "It is a deplorable fact". The group is believed responsible for a string of recently deadly attacks in northern Ecuador against military targets. That represents about 10 percent of the small nation's police officers and troops.
According to communications that have reached Colombian media and Ecuadorian foundations, their kidnapping and murder has been attributed, and self-claimed, to the group "Oliver Sinisterra" -under investigation- led by a dissident of the FARC that responds to the nickname of "Guacho".