ANNCOL | 28.03.2003 11:27
The crash ocurred in the middle of a traditional stronghold of the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, a rebel army fighting for land reforms and an end to corruption. It is suspected that guerrillas from this rebel army's Teofilo Forero column shot the Cessna 208 plane down, but the US State Department declined to provide further details on the crash.
Local media, however, reported that the spy plane was participating in a massive search-and-rescue mission to find three other US intelligence experts working for the CIA whose plane — also a Cessna 208 — was downed in rebel territory near the US Larandia base on Feb. 13.
A fourth CIA agent and a Colombian soldier who had been aboard were killed in a firefight with the rebels after that crash, after which the three remaining agents surrendered and were taken prisoners by the FARC. Thousands of Colombian troops, assisted by U.S. intelligence and operations planners, have since been searching the jungles and mountains of southern Colombia without succes.
The FARC has offered to release the three captured US agents together with a number of captured Colombian military officers and high-profile politicians also held by the insurgents, in exchange for the release of captured guerrillas. The government of right-wing extremist Alvaro Uribe has so far rejected the proposal. Instead Uribe has called for increased US military intervention to assist the government's besieged fores.
The latest casualities take the death toll of US citizens in Colombia's civil war - whether official US military personel or mercenaries - to 16 in recent years. It is believed that more than 1.000 US troops are fighting Colombia's guerrilla insurgencies.