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Colombia recovers bodies believed to be of missing press team

Policemen unload corpses -allegedly belonging to the press team of Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio- from a helicopter in Tumaco, Colombia on June 22, 2018, to be transferred to the Legal Medicine offices in Cali for identification. Colombian authorities have recovered what they believe to be the bodies of a three-man Ecuadoran press team kidnapped and killed on the two countries’ border. / AFP PHOTO / Carlos Ayala

Colombian authorities have recovered what they believe to be the bodies of a three-man Ecuadoran press team kidnapped and killed on the two countries’ border.

President Juan Manuel Santos said the bodies located by police in the country’s south could be those of journalist Javier Ortega, 32, photographer Paul Rivas, 45, and their 60-year-old driver Efrain Segarra.

“I reiterate my condolences to the families and my repudiation of this heinous crime,” said Santos.

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said Thursday that four bodies had been recovered, and that forensic police in Cali were expected to identify them Friday.

The three men, who worked for Ecuador’s influential El Comercio newspaper, were kidnapped while covering a story on violence along the border, prompting both countries to send troops to hunt down the perpetrators.

Walter Patricio Artizala, better known as “Guacho,” served as a rebel for 15 years in the now-defunct FARC movement and heads the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a group that kidnapped the men on March 26 in the Mataje area.

Experts say the northwestern border zone, which is covered with dense jungle and crisscrossed by rivers leading into the Pacific, has become a paradise for drug traffickers.

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