Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Ecuador president says journalists likely killed

Ecuador president says journalists likely killed

President Santos was criticized in Ecuador because he did not take any measures or negotiate for the release of Ecuadorian journalists Javier Ortega and Paul Rivas and driver Efrain Segarra, who died close to the mutual Ecuadorian-Colombian border on March 24, and their bodies possibly sent to Colombia.

Moreno also announced that operations resumed on the border with Colombia and offered a reward for what he called the "narco-terrorist, alias Guacho", leader of the group that kidnapped and murdered El Comercio's news crew.

Moreno had given kidnappers a 12-hour ultimatum on Thursday night to prove whether the victims were alive.

"We are in mourning, but we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated, today more than ever I ask the country for unity, for peace", he said.

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

Peru, where he had been due to attend this weekend's Summit of the Americas.

He said elite troops would soon be deployed to the northern border area where the employees of El Comercio newspaper were last seen almost three weeks ago while investigating a rise in drug-fueled violence.

Fears that the kidnapping had ended in tragedy emerged Thursday when a Colombian TV network said it had received gruesome photos purporting to show the bodies of the three men. Moreno said there is an "enormous possibility" that images are authentic.

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The so-called Oliver Sinisterra Front had demanded the release of three jailed members and an end to a bilateral anti-terrorism deal in exchange for the hostages.

While more than a dozen journalists used to be killed every year in Colombia at the height of Pablo Escobar's reign in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the numbers have fallen dramatically as the country's half-century conflict winds down to that point only a single press worker was killed in 2017, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The security forces in Ecuador have been fighting against the Colombian rebels and drug trafficking groups.

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

"We have no proof of life and unfortunately we have information that confirms the murder of our countrymen", Moreno said during a televised address, CNN reported.

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Colombia Reports depends on your support. "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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