49 people kidnapped by criminal gang in Ecuador mine released, 2 Colombians arrested

49 people kidnapped by criminal gang in Ecuador mine released, 2 Colombians arrested
49 people kidnapped by criminal gang in Ecuador mine released, 2 Colombians arrested

Quito, Jul 4 (EFE).- Ecuador’s National Police reported Thursday the release of 49 people who had been kidnapped, allegedly by the criminal group known as Los Lobos, one of the criminal gangs that President Daniel Noboa began to call “terrorists” after declaring an “internal armed conflict” last January.

According to police, the people were released after raids carried out in the Camilo Ponce Enríquez municipality, a mining enclave belonging to the southern Andean province of Azuay, where last week eight bodies with signs of torture were found in a mining concession.

The victims were kidnapped in mining areas of the sector, where the authorities arrested two Colombians identified as Jhon Freddy GP and Wilver Ferney GB, allegedly linked to the illegal act, and who had no criminal record.

Upon entering to free the victims, the agents found 46 men and 3 women, including a teenager, tied up by their hands and feet, who stated that they had been kidnapped since July 2.

For their part, the Armed Forces indicated that during the rescue operation some 23 people opened fire in Ponce Enríquez when they noticed that they had discovered a clandestine camp armed with black plastic and sticks, “where there was a large group of people on their knees with their hands on their necks kidnapped” by the criminal group.

The military found five “murdered people,” four of whom were dismembered.

Among the evidence found in the operation, the police listed four rifles, a carbine, nearly 2,000 cartridges, five magazines, 81 sticks of dynamite, 32 cell phones and a radio.

Police posted videos and photos of the operation on social media, but have not provided any information on their health status.

Since the beginning of the year, President Noboa elevated the fight against organized crime to the category of “internal armed conflict”, with which he began to classify criminal gangs as terrorist groups and non-state belligerents.

Organized crime gangs, mainly dedicated to drug trafficking, are blamed for the wave of violence that has hit Ecuador and led it to be listed as the country with the most homicides per capita, registering 47.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2023, according to the Ecuadorian Observatory of Organized Crime (OECO).

These mafias are mainly dedicated to drug trafficking, but have also expanded their operations to other sectors such as illegal mining, extortion and arms trafficking. EFE

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