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Colombian rebels say they're holding US ex-soldier

(FILE) Ivan Marquez, FARC's number two and the rebel group's lead negotiator in peace talks with the Colombian government that have been underway in Havana since November, delivers a speech at the Convention Palace in Havana on June 18, 2013 before a round of talks. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE

BOGOTA: Colombia's main rebel movement said Friday that it has been holding a U.S. veteran of the Afghan conflict for nearly a month and offered to release him to a humanitarian commission.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, identified the man as Kevin Scott Sutay and said in a statement on its website that it "captured" him on June 20 in the town of Retorno in the country's southeast.

No U.S. citizen had been reported missing in Colombia and a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said she did not immediately have any information on the case.

The FARC did not explain the circumstances of Sutay's "capture" but said it proved that the U.S. has "mercenaries in the country." The rebels said Sutay had been in the nearby town of San Jose de Guaviare, where a Colombian military base is.

The U.S. military has long assisted Colombia's armed forces and at any given time has dozens of uniformed personnel as well as civilian contractors in the country.

Three U.S. military contractors held by the FARC for more than six years were rescued in 2008 along with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and a group of Colombian soldiers and police.

The FARC said Sutay identified himself as a 2010-11 veteran of the Afghan war who was an anti-mining and explosives specialist in the U.S. Navy until March of this year.

It said Sutay's passport says he was born in New York City. It published what it said was the passport number and date of issue. It also said he arrived in Colombia on June 8 after traveling through Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

The group said it would free Sutay as a good-faith gesture in light of peace talks going on in Cuba to end Colombia's nearly half-century-old conflict. Those talks began in November and the U.S. government has been wholly supportive of them.

The FARC asked that a commission be convened led by former Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who has in the past brokered prisoner releases, and include a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

 

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