Two Colombian soldiers who had been taken prisoner by the National Liberation Army were released Monday into the hands of representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Catholic Church, as well as state officials.
The soldiers were first detained by the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, on October 26 while they traveled alongside elections officials who were transporting votes from a rural Indigenous community.
"We are pleased that this humanitarian operation concluded successfully. The most important thing now is that two people can join, as soon as possible, their families and loved ones," Christoph Harnisch, the head of the Red Cross in Colombia, told Semana magazine.
Nonetheless the soldiers, Andres Felipe Perez and Antonio Rodriguez, must first debrief with military officials before they can be reunited with their families.
Both were reported to be in good health.
The detention of the soldiers sparked a small crisis in Colombia as the government is currently in exploratory talks to begin a peace process with the ELN, the country's second-largest and lesser known guerrilla army.
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Semana magazine reported that the detention of the soldiers was the result of a series of mistakes made by the Colombian Army. Instead of following protocol, the platoon that was accompanying the electoral material was poorly equipped.
Army officials also failed to promptly report that a clash had occurred.
In addition to the capture of the two soldiers, during the operation 11 soldiers and one police officer died, and three others were injured. The events led to speculation that peace talks with the ELN would collapse; to date formal talks have not yet begun.
The ELN has demanded a bilateral cease-fire before talks begin.
Peace talks with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, have been ongoing since late 2012 and are expected to conclude in March 2016.
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