Colombian army general kidnapped by armed left-wing rebels

Planned Monday negotiations with FARC suspended over incident

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The Colombian government has suspended peace talks with FARC rebels amid reports that the group is responsible for the kidnapping of one of its generals.

Colombian authorities have mounted a massive search and rescue operation for General Ruben Dario Alzate, who was taken along with two others while visiting a rural energy project in west of the country.

The American-educated General Alzate was travelling by motorboat along a remote river when he was intercepted and taken.

A fourth soldier who was travelling in the boat and managed to escape told authorities that the armed Marxist-Leninist group FARC was behind the incident.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday that peace negotiators set to travel to a meeting in Cuba today would not set off until the general was freed.

Following the incident, President Santos immediately ordered his defence minister to travel to the western capital of Quibdo, in Chocó department, to oversee the search and rescue operation.

“Let it be clear to the entire country: when a kidnapping occurs the only ones responsible are the kidnappers, in this case the FARC terrorists,” defense minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said late on Sunday night.

The minister also confirmed that the government had contacted the International Red Cross to help negotiate release of the captives.

There are reports that the general may have been travelling in plain clothes rather than uniform.

FARC, which stands for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or ‘Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’ has been fighting an armed conflict against the country’s government since the 1960s.

The group was founded as the military wing of the country’s communist party in response to US-backed repression under the conservative National Front regime. The 10,000-strong rebel group now raises funds from drug trafficking and kidnapping.

General Alzate is the commander of the newly established Titan Task Force, a 2,500-soldier force dedicated to fighting rebels and drug-traffickers in the jungles surrounding Quibdo.

Colombian media reports that the incident marks the first time an army general has been taken captive in the history of the half-century conflict.