79 police officers taken hostage in Colombia

A police officer has died and 79 others taken hostage during protests in Colombia’s southern Caquetá province.

Violence erupted on Thursday after residents blockaded the compound of the oil exploration company, Emerald Energy.

They were demanding its help to repair and build new roads in the area.

A civilian was also killed and nine oilfield workers captured alongside the police officers. Video showed the hostages sitting in a crowded room on rows of chairs and on the floor.

Colombian President, Gustavo Petro, said he hoped they would be “unilaterally” released before any escalation of violence, and asked for medical help from the Red Cross.

Many of the protesters are rural and indigenous people who want Emerald Energy to build new road infrastructure around the San Vicente del Caguan area.

The oil company did not respond when approached by Re­uters news agency for comment.

Colombian police paid tribute on Twitter to the police officer killed in the clash, who they named as Ricardo Monroy.

“Today we are more united than ever,” they wrote, adding that Mr Monroy had “offered his life in the line of duty”. —Reuters

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