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Ecuador’s Moreno returns home after report says abducted journalists dead

April 13, 2018

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno announced Thursday he would return home from the Summit of Americas in Peru to address a “critical situation” related to a team of abducted reporters following reports they had been killed.

“I have decided to return immediately to Ecuador because of the critical situation we are experiencing right now,” the Moreno said on Twitter on Thursday, the same day he had arrived in Peruvian capital Lima for the summit.

Moreno added he would be accompanied by relatives of the team, who had also traveled to Peru to pressure him and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos to secure the journalists’ release.

Reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were kidnapped by rogue Colombian FARC guerrillas on March 26 at the Ecuador-Colombia border.

On April 3, Colombia’s RCN television aired a 23-second video showing the trio wearing chains with locks around their necks, the first proof of life.

One of the hostages asked President Moreno to reach an agreement for their release.

Moreno in turn announced his government “will do everything possible and impossible so that they return safe and sound,” according to a spokesman.

Moreno decided to return urgently to Quito after a Colombian television channel announced it had received photographs that may be the three journalists.

The journalists were on assignment in the border area where Ecuadoran security forces have come under a series of deadly attacks blamed on rogue FARC elements involved in drug trafficking.

A 2016 pact between the Colombian government and the FARC ended half a century of armed conflict, saw 7,000 rebels disarmed and the ex-rebels transform into a political party.

However, some 1,100 guerrillas broke away from the agreement, primarily to pursue drug trafficking and illegal mining, according to the Colombian government and independent research centers.

The FARC has long been active in the remote Ecuador-Colombia border region.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.