Ecuador 'proof of life' deadline expires for abducted reporters

Ecuador 'proof of life' deadline expires for abducted reporters

Ecuador 'proof of life' deadline expires for abducted reporters

Three Ecuadorian journalists who were abducted by dissident Colombian rebels have been murdered, Ecuador's president confirmed on Friday.

As Moreno spoke, dozens of colleagues and friends of reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas and their driver Efrain Segarra gathered in tears in a plaza outside the presidential palace under the slogan "Three Are Missing", the same one that has featured in candlelight vigils held nearly every night since their disappearance.

He stressed that "beyond the efforts we have made, it has been confirmed that these criminals appear to never have had the will to deliver them safe and sound, and it is very likely that all what they wanted was to buy time".

"We have information that confirms the deaths of our countrymen", said Mr. Moreno at a news conference in Quito.

Moreno immediately ordered resumption of military operations in the area along the border.

The team, from Ecuador's influential El Comercio newspaper, was abducted while on assignment along the border between the two countries, where Ecuadoran security forces have come under attack by former FARC rebels who are still active in drug trafficking.

Moreno also offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Walter Arizala, better known by his alias Guacho, the leader of a holdout group of guerrillas from the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Meanwhile he announced contacts with global organizations such as the Catholic Church and the worldwide Red Cross in order to "locate and repatriate the bodies" of the abducted Ecuadorians.

President Lenin Moreno confirms death of kidnapped journalists
Driver, the President of Ecuador and marxist Rebels Killed Journalists States

"I give these narcos 12 hours to give us proof of the existence of our compatriots otherwise we will go with all forcefulness", Moreno told reporters. "But we won't be intimidated".

On Thursday, Colombia's RCN network passed on to officials graphic photos purporting to show the men's bodies, which Ecuadorian authorities are analysing.

The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights demanded on Thursday that both Colombia and Ecuador "guarantee the life and integrity" of the kidnapped victims and journalists in general. In Ecuador, only two journalists have been killed since 1992.

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".

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.

Moreno announced in March that he was boosting security to the region, sending 12,000 soldiers and police to combat drug gangs.

The region has always been a hotbed for Colombian drug traffickers and rebel groups (which are often the same), and has been the setting for a string of recent attacks against military targets.

Related news