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Published: Sunday, 10/27/2013

Colombian rebels release former GI held since June

FARC suspected veteran of being U.S. agent

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia’s main leftist rebel group on Sunday released a former U.S. army private who was seized in June by guerrillas after he refused to heed warnings and wandered into rebel-held territory.

Kevin Scott Sutay, in his late 20s, was turned over to Norwegian and Colombian officials along with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the same region where he had vanished four months earlier.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Colombia’s government for its “tireless efforts” in securing the Afghanistan war veteran’s release. Mr. Kerry also thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson for advocating it.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, renounced kidnapping as a condition for peace talks that began 11 months ago to end a half-century internal conflict.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had resisted FARC’s efforts to make what he deemed a “media show” of Mr. Sutay’s release, and no images were made public of the early morning jungle handover.

Mr. Santos also objected to the FARC-endorsed intercession of Mr. Jackson, who met with rebel leaders in Cuba in late September and said that he would go to Colombia to lobby on behalf of Mr. Sutay’s release.

The Red Cross said one of its doctors examined Mr. Sutay and said he was in good health. Mr. Sutay was in Colombia as a tourist, the U.S. Embassy has said.

The FARC said it captured him on June 20 in the municipality of El Retorno in the southeastern state of Guaviare.

At the time, FARC accused him of being an agent of the U.S. government, whose military aid in training, logistics, surveillance, and intelligence since 2000 has helped Colombia’s government weaken the rebels.

“What would you think of a man who is in a war zone, who has a secret camera in his watch, who is carrying [global] positioning equipment ... who has a military uniform in his suitcase?” Rodrigo Granda of FARC said.

But officials in Guaviare and U.S. reporters said that he seemd to be a tourist who was determined to walk through the jungle toward Colombia’s eastern border.



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