Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno on Friday confirmed that two journalists and their driver, who were reportedly abducted along the Colombian border, have been killed, BBC reported.
However forensic experts in both countries were unable to confirm the authenticity of the images, exasperating press groups and family members who say accused both governments of taking the incident too lightly.
"Despite our best efforts, we've confirmed that these criminals never had the intention of handing them back safe and sound", Moreno said.
Moreno also announced that operations resumed on the border with Colombia and offered a reward for what he called the "narco-terrorist, alias Guacho", leader of the group that kidnapped and murdered El Comercio's news crew. It's still not clear how they died but Moreno denied the hostage takers' unsubstantiated claims it was the result of a stealth military operation.
Meanwhile he announced contacts with global organizations such as the Catholic Church and the worldwide Red Cross in order to "locate and repatriate the bodies" of the abducted Ecuadorians.
"Failing that, we will act with all forcefulness. not hesitating to punish these violators of every human right", said Moreno, who was close to tears. "Do not stop criticizing", he requested to the media, "we know how to admit our mistakes and all this will allow us to recognize if there have been any".
Two Ecuadorean journalists for the newspaper the El Commercio and their driver were kidnapped on March 26 in northern Ecuador and were believed to be held in Colombia.
The journalists' kidnapping has alarmed and unsettled Ecuador, with media saying it was the first such abduction in the country in three decades. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos dispatched his top military advisers to Quito to assist in the military planning.
The ultimatum was issued late on Thursday by President Lenin Moreno, who gave the kidnappers until 11:00 am (1600 GMT) to give an answer after his government received photos from a Colombian TV station suggesting the trio, all Ecuadorians, were dead. "These are criminals dedicated to drug-trafficking", he said at the summit in Lima.
On having arrived in Lima to take part in the 8th Ibero-American Summit, the Colombian Head of State said that he has sent military chiefs and specialists to Ecuador to offer the Colombian intervention to fight armed groups settled down in the Ecuadoran side of the common border.
Moreno announced in March that he was boosting security to the region, sending 12,000 soldiers and police to combat drug gangs.
Santos said on his Twitter account that Moreno could count on the support of Colombia's armed forces.
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