The Latest: Ecuador president says journalists were killed

A relative of journalist Javier Ortega, member of a team of El Comercio employees who were kidnapped on the Ecuador-Colombia border 11 days ago, holds his picture after a Mass in honor of the group in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, April 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno has confirmed the deaths of three press workers kidnapped along the country's conflictive border with Colombia

QUITO, Ecuador — The Latest on the kidnapping of Ecuadorean press workers. (all times local):

12:55 p.m.

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno has confirmed the deaths of three press workers kidnapped along the country's conflictive border with Colombia.

Moreno spoke Friday after a 12-hour deadline ended with the captors failing to meet his demands they demonstrate the hostages were still alive or face a military strike.

He said the government has obtained new information that confirmed the journalists were killed. On Thursday a Colombian TV network said it obtained gruesome photos purporting to show the bodies of the three men.

The three employees of Ecuador's El Comercio newspaper were taken hostage three weeks ago by a holdout faction of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia while investigating a rise in drug-fueled violence along Ecuador's northern border.

___

11:05 p.m.

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno says it is highly likely that three press workers kidnapped along the conflictive border were killed and is giving their captors 12 hours to demonstrate they remain alive before he orders a major military operation against them.

Two journalists and a driver from the Ecuadorean newspaper El Comercio were taken hostage three weeks ago by a holdout faction of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia while investigating a rise in drug-fueled violence along Ecuador's northern border.

An emotional Moreno said that photos obtained earlier Thursday purporting to show the bodies of the men were still being verified by forensic specialists were likely authentic.

He said the time for restraint was over and that he won't allow Ecuador to become a haven for transnational drug gangs.

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