Pelton was traveling in Panama to research a proposed story project for National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Pelton has previously reported from Afghanistan for the magazine, profiling Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum and chronicling the exploits of American Green Beret forces fighting in the country.
During that assignment Pelton interviewed captured American Taliban John Walker Lindh for the television cable news network CNN. A contributing editor to National Geographic Adventure, Pelton recently penned a series of columns for the magazine dispensing advice on safe travel.
National Geographic Adventure Editor-in-Chief John Rasmus said in a statement released this afternoon that his staff has been in contact with Pelton's family and U.S. government authorities. "We're hopeful that the situation will be resolved quickly and peacefully," Rasmus said.
The Darién Gap is a relatively small, thickly forested and sparsely populated region of rugged hills and few roads that straddles borders of Panama and Colombia.
In Panama, the region's remote location and proximity to the Colombian border has made it a favored refuge for left- and right-wing paramilitary groups from Colombia who often cross the border into Panama to elude government forces.
"It's an area where for decades rebel groups from Colombia have been taking temporary refuge," Olson said. "They come across the border to flee Colombian authorities."
"They come into this Panama jungle area and they'll just hang out there for a while and re-supply themselves, try to get some food from the locals, and then go back to their activities in Colombia," Olson said.
Colombia has battled rebel insurgents for more than 40 years of civil unrest.
The U.S. Department of State consular information sheet on Panama warns U.S. citizens that travel in the Darién Gap region of Panama near the Colombian border may be dangerous due to "the activities of drug traffickers, Colombian guerrillas, and Colombian paramilitary groups."
The recently reported kidnapping of the American trio occurred exactly two weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the disappearance of three American missionaries who were traveling in the Darién Gap region of Panama.
Authorities believe the missionaries, members of the New Tribes Mission, were kidnapped in Panama by FARC, a left-wing Colombian guerilla group, and taken across the border into Colombia, Olson said.
Authorities presume the trio was killed, Olson said.
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