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Ecuador launches military operation where journalists kidnapped

April 13, 2018

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno on Friday confirmed the deaths of three members of a journalist team kidnapped by renegade Colombian rebels — and quickly launched a retaliatory military operation in the area where they were snatched.

“Sadly, we have information confirming the murder of our fellow countrymen,” Moreno told reporters in Quito, two hours after the expiry of a 12-hour deadline he had given captors to prove the trio was still alive — or else face a “forceful” response.

“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,” Moreno said.

The ultimatum was issued after his government received photos from a Colombian TV station suggesting the three men, all Ecuadorans, were dead.

The three — reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segarra, 60 — all worked for the influential El Comercio newspaper and were following a story on violence in the border area when they were kidnapped on March 26 by rogue forces affiliated with Colombia’s recently-disbanded FARC rebels.

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