By Rosa Tania Valdés
HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia's rebels told a news conference on Tuesday they had no information about the kidnapping of a Colombian army general because of poor communication in the rural area where the government says he was abducted.
Rebel leader Pastor Alape also said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) remained committed to the two-year-old peace talks in Havana and hoped they would resume soon after President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday suspended negotiations over what he said was the rebel kidnapping of General Ruben Dario Alzate.
"We don't know (what happened), and certainly anything that implies operations in the area is making rapid communications more difficult," Alape said.
The Colombian military dispatched troops by air, river and land to search the poor and violence-stricken jungle region where the general went missing on Sunday.
Santos has staked his presidency on peace talks seeking to end Latin America's longest-running insurgency, in which 200,000 people have died over 50 years, but he immediately halted negotiations after the abduction of Alzate, who heads the Titan task force in the northwestern department of Choco, which borders Panama.
Alzate and the other officer violated security protocols and were dressed as civilians, Santos said, when they were kidnapped upon disembarking on a river near the city of Quibdo to visit an energy project.
The government will also work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to seek the hostages' release.
Rebel leaders at the talks have occasionally dissociated themselves from violent attacks by lower ranks in Colombia, raising the possibility they could defuse tension by securing the general's release.
The conflict has continued even as the peace talks take place in Cuba, and Alape reiterated the FARC's plea for a truce.
(Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by W Simon)