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Colombia suspends peace talks with FARC after army general is kidnapped by rebel group

German Graciano Posso, left, Nora Elisa Velez, second left, Wilfredo Landa Caicedo, right, and Lisinia Collazos Yule, second right, victims of the Colombian armed conflict, arrive to a press conference and a meeting with the revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and members of Colombia's government peace negotiation team, at the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

German Graciano Posso, left, Nora Elisa Velez, second left, Wilfredo Landa Caicedo, right, and Lisinia Collazos Yule, second right, victims of the Colombian armed conflict, arrive to a press conference and a meeting with the revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and members of Colombia's government peace negotiation team, at the peace talks in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

A massive search operation is underway for a Colombian army general whose surprise capture by leftist rebels prompted President Juan Manuel Santos to suspend two-year-old peace talks.

Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate was surveying a rural energy project along the remote Atrato River in western Colombia when he and two others were snatched Sunday by armed men. A soldier who managed to flee in the group's boat said the kidnappers were members of the 34th front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Colombian media reported it's the first time in half a century of fighting that the guerrillas have taken an army general captive.

Calling the abduction "totally unacceptable," Santos said he had ordered government peace negotiators not to travel Monday to Cuba for the next round of peace talks — and those talks will not resume until Alzate and the two others — an army captain and a female lawyer — are freed.

"FARC is responsible for the life and safety of these three people," Santos told journalists after midnight following a meeting with his top military commanders before they set off to the western city of Quibdo to oversee rescue efforts.

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The surprise blow comes as frustration with the two-year-old peace talks is building due to slow progress and the apparent refusal by the guerrillas to wind down attacks in areas where they remain dominant. Just in the past few days, FARC captured two soldiers following intense fighting in northeast Colombia and killed two members of an indigenous tribe who confronted rebels.

FARC considers captured military personnel prisoners of war and has offered to free the soldiers taken last week. It also has been clamoring for a cease-fire while peace talks continue, something Santos has rejected for fears it would give the guerrillas a chance to regroup after years of battlefield defeats at the hands of Colombia's US-backed military.

While Santos is laying blame on the FARC for the general's disappearance, he's also demanding to know why one of Colombia's most distinguished soldiers apparently violated military protocol and set off on the river in the dangerous conflict zone dressed as a civilian and without his bodyguards.

The U.S.-educated Alzate took over as commander this year of the newly established Titan Task Force, a 2,500-man counterinsurgency force to combat both the rebels and drug-traffickers in the remote, water-logged jungles surrounding Quibdo.

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