Ecuador president says journalists were killed

Ecuador president says journalists were killed

Ecuador president says journalists were killed

Ecuador's president has said it is highly likely that three press workers kidnapped along the border with Colombia have been killed.

The three employees of El Comercio newspaper were taken hostage three weeks ago by a holdout faction of the demobilised Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia while investigating a rise in drug-fuelled violence along Ecuador's northern border.

Reporter Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their driver Efrain Segarra, 60, were kidnapped on March 26 by rogue forces affiliated with Colombia's recently-disbanded FARC rebels.

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

"These criminals seemingly never had the will to hand them over safe and sound", Moreno said in a national broadcast after an emergency cabinet meeting.

Moreno also offered a $100,000 USA 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 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

On Thursday a Colombian TV network said it obtained gruesome photos purporting to show the bodies of the three men.

Moreno added he would be accompanied by relatives of the team, who had also traveled to Peru to pressure him and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos to secure the journalists' release.

More than a thousand FARC fighters refused to demobilize under the accord with Santos and continue drug trafficking across the nation.

"It is with deep sorrow that I regret to report that the twelve-hour deadline has passed and that we have no proof of life and unfortunately we have information that confirms the murder of our compatriots", Moreno announced.

Moreno explained that he had asked the Colombian government, army and police to immediately begin these actions.

The FARC has always been active in the remote Ecuador-Colombia border region.

Interior Minister Cesar Navas said earlier this week that the violence in the province, including a auto bomb in January and the killing of four marines on patrol by a nail bomb in March, has escalated because the new Moreno administration had taken the threat of drug trafficking seriously and arrested leading members of the breakaway rebel group.

Women place flowers on pictures of three press workers from the newspaper El Comercio, after Moreno confirmed their deaths on Friday.

"The clock starts clicking right now", he said, in remarks at Quito airport as he cut short a visit to a Lima for the Americas Summit which was to begin on Friday.

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