Colombia Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ángela Holguín reported Friday night that three of the bodies found Thursday in Nariña Department are those of three journalists from the Quito newspaper El Comercio.
“I called Ecuador´s chancellor to give him the news that we had found the bodies and determined that they were those of the murdered journalists,” Holguín said. “The bodies have been transported to Cali where they are undergoing analysis to determine the nature of the crime and to gather other information.” She added that relatives of the victims are in Cali and will take the bodies with them when they return to Ecuador.
Ecuador’s foreign ministry acknowledges that it received Holguín message but says it will wait for the final results of tests before making an official announcement.
The El Comercio reporting team of Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra, was kidnapped March 26 in a rural area of the Mataje parish in Esmeraldas province, less than a kilometer from the Colombian border. They were in the area reporting on a joint Ecuadorian-Colombian military and police operation aimed at stopping illegal drug production and transport activities in the region. Their murder was confirmed a month later.
The dissident FARC group, which calls itself the Oliver Sinisterra Front, led by Walter Patricio Arizala, alias “Guacho,” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and the murders.
In addition to the journalists, a fourth body was discovered that has yet to be identified.
Colombian military sources say the bodies were discovered by canine units in southwest Nariña Department, close to the Ecuadorian border. The bodies were encircled with explosive devices that soldiers disarmed before making the recoveries.