Colombia's ELN loses kidnap victim in jungle escape

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Image caption,
The ELN began a first round of peace talks with the government in February

Colombia's second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, says a Russian-Armenian wildlife trafficker whom they had been holding for ransom has escaped.

The group said it had found Voskanya Arcen Levoni six months ago in the jungle region of Choco province collecting poisonous frogs.

The ELN stated it had begun negotiations for his release with the Russian Embassy.

But, it said, Mr Arcen Levoni had overcome his guards and escaped.

The ELN said the escape happened when the unit holding him had been transferring him.

During the struggle he had wounded five ELN fighters and then fled into the jungle, himself badly hurt.

"The ELN units withdrew their wounded and have no knowledge of the situation of the man they were transferring to be released." It said.

The group had sworn to suspend their kidnapping operations as a precondition of peace talks with the government which began in February.

The ELN is the last left-wing guerrilla group active in Colombia, following the peace accord in November between the government and the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

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