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Venezuela rescues 8 soldiers kidnapped by armed groups on Colombia border

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A member of the Bolivarian National Police stands on a corner during a confrontation with criminal gangs at the La Vega neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 24, 2021. (File photo by AFP)

Eight Venezuelan soldiers who had been kidnapped by armed groups on the Colombian border have been rescued in a military operation, the Venezuelan Defense Ministry has announced.

The ministry said in a statement that the operation to rescue the kidnapped soldiers had taken place in the southern Apure State, on the border with Colombia, on Monday.

Medical support was being given to the soldiers and they were all “safe and sound,” the Defense Ministry said.

It added that the Venezuelan military continued a search for two other troops that remained missing, but did not give further details.

“We will continue to fight against organizations that want to use our sacred national territory to commit transnational crimes affecting the peace, development and stability of the country,” the statement said.

The soldiers had been kidnapped by the armed groups active in the border area on May 15.

The Venezuelan military launched on a large-scale operation to combat the militia on the Colombian border earlier this year.

Caracas has said the armed groups are disguised as guerrillas but are in fact tied to the Colombian army and the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque.

But security sources in Colombia claim that the armed groups are dissidents from the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, which signed a peace agreement with Bogota in 2016 to end a half-century of armed conflict. Some guerrilla fighters refused to join the peace process.

Early this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned in a report that residents in Apure and the neighboring Colombian state of Arauca faced brutal violence from armed militants on a daily basis.

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