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Colombia's ELN guerrillas kidnap soldier in northern Antioquia department

BOGOTA, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- A Colombian soldier was kidnapped Wednesday allegedly by National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas in Segovia municipality, located in the northern Antioquia department, the country's El Tiempo daily network reported.

According to preliminary information provided by the Colombian Army, the soldier, Jair Jesus Billar Ortiz, was patrolling the area to prevent the guerrilla group from attacking an electric power plant.

"The officer held by the ELN was carrying out his constitutional duty to advance intelligence work. The safety of the soldier is now under responsibility of the terrorist organization and we demand his immediate release," a military statement said.

Meanwhile, air assault aircraft and ground troops were sent to the area to conduct rescue operations for the soldier.

The ELN is the country's second-largest guerrilla group after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It has gained significant control of the territories left by the FARC because of the latter's ongoing peace process with the government.

The government and the ELN are currently in the final phase of closed-door negotiations and will soon decide whether to start peace talks openly.

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