A photograph released by Colombia’s armed forces shows soldiers and sniffer dogs searching for the missing children – Copyright AFP/File Luis Acosta
Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Thursday retracted his claim that four Indigenous children missing for more than two weeks after an airplane crash in the Amazon had been found alive.
Writing on Twitter, Petro said he had deleted his tweet from Wednesday night in which he had announced the rescue of the four children, including an 11-month-old baby.
“I am sorry for what happened. The military forces and Indigenous communities will continue in their tireless search to give the country the news it is waiting for,” he said in his retraction.
More than 100 soldiers have been deployed with sniffer dogs to search for the minors who were traveling in an airplane that crashed on May 1, leaving three adults including the pilot and the children’s mother dead.
Rescuers believe the children — who in addition to the 11-month-old include a 13, nine and four-year-old — have been wandering through the jungle in the southern Caqueta department since the crash.
“At this time there is no other priority other than progressing with the search until finding them,” added Petro. “The children’s lives are the most important thing.”
Petro’s stunning announcement on Wednesday had been met with uncertainty as he gave no details about where or how the children had been rescued, nor how they had survived alone in the jungle.
Amid widespread confusion, the military has not confirmed any rescue.
Avianline Charters, owner of the crashed aircraft, had previously said that one of its pilots in the search area was told the children had been found and that they “were being transported by boat downriver and that they were all alive.”
But the company also said that “there has been no official confirmation” that the children were out of danger, and thunderstorms posed a risk to them reaching safety.
Petro said on Thursday that the news of the supposed rescue had been provided by the government’s Institute of Family Welfare.