Spanish journalist held in Colombia freed, two others to be liberated soon | Reuters

BOGOTA A Spanish journalist kidnapped by Colombia's ELN rebels said on Friday she is safe after going missing six days ago in restive Norte de Santander province, but declined to give details on her disappearance.

Salud Hernandez is one of three journalists who vanished over the past week while working in El Tarra municipality in the largely lawless northeastern province. She was last seen climbing aboard a motorcycle taxi on Saturday while reporting a story on the illegal drug trade.

"Thank you to the Catholic Church, to all my colleagues," Hernandez said by telephone to Caracol television news. "I'm perfectly fine."

Hernandez said she would hold a press conference later to tell the story of her disappearance, adding that the two other reporters who vanished in the province will be freed on Friday or Saturday.

Reporter Diego D'Pablos and cameraman Carlos Melo, from local television news channel Noticias RCN, went to the area to cover Hernandez's disappearance before they themselves vanished on Tuesday.

"Their liberation will also be quick," said Hernandez, adding that she had not actually seen the reporters.

The government said on Thursday the journalists were being held by the National Liberation Army (ELN), which operates in the area alongside the larger rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and criminal gangs. [nL2N18O00O]

The El Tiempo newspaper reported that Hernandez said she was held against her will but treated well.

The liberation of the reporters could help move the ELN and the government toward starting peace talks they announced in March that have been delayed by the rebels' continued kidnappings and infrastructure attacks.

Hernandez, 59, who writes for Spain's El Mundo and local newspapers, is known for opinion columns highly critical of Colombia's insurgents, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC talks.

Santos has said no official talks will begin until the group frees all hostages. "I demand the immediate liberation of the two RCN journalist who are still in the hands of the ELN," Santos told reporters at a meeting with security officials.

The government has been holding peace talks with the FARC since late 2012.

Norte de Santander is a hub for cultivation of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, and for the smuggling of goods from neighbouring Venezuela. Rebels groups and criminal gangs, many of them including former paramilitary fighters, sometimes fight for control of drug routes and crops.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Dan Grebler)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: May 28, 2016 04:45:08 IST

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