Colombia's War On Terror Just Got Personal
An American and a Colombian whose bodies were
found in the wreckage of a U.S. government plane had been shot to
death, a Colombian official said Friday. President Alvaro Uribe
said both men were murdered.
The State Department said the other three people in the plane,
all Americans, may have been taken hostage by the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The Colombian official said he
didn't know what kind of shape they are in - if they are indeed
In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Barclay, said:
"We have reliable reports that crew members are being held by the
terrorist group the FARC. If these reports are accurate we demand
the crew members be released unharmed immediately."
The single-engine Cessna Caravan - carrying four Americans and a
Colombian - was on a drug-interdiction mission when it went down
Thursday in rebel-held territory.
Rescue crews discovered two bodies in the wreckage and retrieved
"There were various bullet impacts on the two bodies," Alonso
Velasquez, director of the attorney general's office in Florencia,
said. He said the gunshot wounds were the cause of death.
According to one report based on a radio intercept, rebels
quickly arrived on the scene of the plane crash (right) and
captured the survivors.
Uribe lamented the deaths of "two people aboard the plane - a
sergeant in our army and an American citizen - whose murders have
It was unclear if the two men had been hit by groundfire while
in the plane, or had been shot after the crash.
American officials, speaking from Washington, said the Americans
were contractors for the U.S. military's Southern Command, which
oversees operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S.
officials said in Washington. The U.S. Embassy in Bogota said the
plane crashed eight minutes before its scheduled arrival in
Florencia, a provincial capital.
Colombian troops and U.S. officials continued their desperate
search Friday for the survivors. Authorities feared they had been
captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the
biggest leftist rebel group in Colombia. DynCorp, a U.S. State
Department contractor involved in anti-drug missions in Colombia,
said Thursday it was helping in the rescue effort. However, a
statement on the company's website indicated otherwise.
"DynCorp was not involved in any manner in the incident that
occurred near Florencia this afternoon. The company is
providing logistics and aircraft support to the Colombian Army and
Police in the rescue and recovery efforts," said company spokesman
Rescue: Mission Impossible?
Four Colombian soldiers involved in the rescue effort were
reported injured by rebel land mines.
"The rebels have a large part of the area mined to stop troops
from coming in," said Capt. Lida Zambrano, spokeswoman for the
Colombian army's 12th Brigade.
Army troops patrolled the main road near the plane crash site,
hoping to intercept the rebels if they tried to move the men out.
The army also closed the road between the towns of El Doncello and
Puerto Rico - near where the plane was believed to have crashed -
for several hours late Thursday, local residents said.
The White House said no information was being released about the
people on board or their mission out of concern for their safety
while the search and rescue efforts continue. "There is a massive
effort under way in a very unfriendly part of the country,"
presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
The area around the crash site is largely controlled by the
FARC. Plantations of coca - the main ingredient of cocaine - are
prevalent in this region of humid plains and jungle-covered
Plot To Bomb Uribe's Plane
The FARC was also blamed for an explosion Friday
in Neiva that blew up a house and killed 15 people, including eight
policemen who were investigating a reported rebel plot to
assassinate Uribe (right, with President George W. Bush). A massive
explosion ripped through a house Friday as it was being searched by
police investigating a plot to kill President Alvaro Uribe, killing
16 people and scattering debris for blocks in this southern
The pre-dawn explosion destroyed three other houses in the
working-class neighborhood adjoining the airport. Authorities said
among those killed were nine police officers, an investigator with
the attorney general's office and three children.
If there were any doubts that Colombia's four-decade-old war had
moved into this South American nation's cities, they were erased in
the devastating blast that gouged a 15-foot-deep crater in the
ground and turned a quiet neighborhood into a scene of
Security officials said the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, planned to kill the
president on Saturday as he flew to Neiva, a city of some 250,000
residents about 400 kilometres south of Bogota.
The rebels allegedly planned to kill Mr. Uribe by detonating the
bomb as his plane flew low overhead — the house was in the
flight path — or by firing mortar rounds, authorities
Killing the Coke
The United States has backed a massive campaign to locate and
destroy the drug crops with aerial fumigation.
Washington is now moving beyond simply fighting drug trafficking
- which provides profits for rebels and right-wing militias - to
helping the Colombian government directly battle the
U.S. special forces in eastern and central Colombia are training
Colombian army troops in counterinsurgency tactics and Washington
is planning to share intelligence on the rebels with Colombia.
The FARC and the National Liberation Army have fought the
government for nearly 40 years. About 3,500 people, mostly
civilians, die in the fighting every year.