79 police officers taken hostage and one killed during protest in Colombia

Colombian police were taken hostage in an oil company complex.   (BBC)
Colombian police were taken hostage in an oil company complex. (BBC)

A police officer has been killed and 79 others taken hostage during protests in Colombia.

The violence flared in the southern Caquetá province 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 with the police officers.

Video showed the hostages sitting in a packed room with many sitting on the floor.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he hoped they would be “unilaterally” released before any escalation of violence.

He also 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.

Colombian police paid tribute on Twitter to the 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”.

Local government officials told Reuters the officer died from a machete attack, while the civilian was killed by gunfire.

Colombia’s human rights ombudsman Carlos Camargo said he had spoken with protesters and stopped them from hurling Molotov cocktails at the oil facility.

Protests in areas near energy and mining operations in Colombia are common as communities demand companies build infrastructure, including roads and schools.

Police said a dissident subgroup of Farc rebels which rejected the 2016 peace deal were present in the region and may have been provoking the unrest.