An additional suspect in Ecuador's recent bombings and kidnappings on the Colombian border has been taken into custody, police officials confirmed Friday, bringing the total number of arrests to 23.
"We have hit the organization hard," Police Commander Ramiro Mantilla told Radio Sonorama, referring to the Oliver Sinisterra Front cartel, which is described by Colombian authorities as a splinter group from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The cartel is led by 'El Guacho,' real name Walter Patricio Artizala Vernaza, and is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of three journalists from El Comercio newspaper on March 26.
Since last year, a total of 23 cartel members have been taken into custody as evidence mounts courtesy of extensive border operations leading to the closure of numerous supply lines by police. "We are on the right track, we are prepared to guarantee security," Mantilla said.
The Oliver Sinisterra Front is reportedly demanding the release of three of its members, as well as the abandonment of a bilateral anti-drug agreement with Colombia in exchange for freeing the captive journalists.
The El Comercio team were investigating the living conditions of people affected by the increasing insecurity in the border region when they were abducted.