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Rebel accused in US plane shootout held

world Updated: May 29, 2007 12:41 IST
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A suspected member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), accused of participating in the 2003 downing of a light plane carrying three US contractors, has been captured, authorities said.

The rebel has been identified as Nelson Cordoba Culma, and an official with the secret police said he was a member of FARC, the country's oldest and largest insurgent group.

Culma was apprehended in a house in southern Bogota thanks to good "intelligence work ... (and) information from the public," the police official told Spanish news agency EFE.

Along with Culma, security authorities arrested another person who has no police record, the source added.

The three US contractors - Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves - were captured by the FARC on Feb 13, 2003, in the southern province of Caqueta after their light plane, after being hit by gunfire from the ground, made an emergency landing. The trio were making an aerial surveillance of illegal drug crop cultivation in the region.

The FARC is evidently still holding the three men, hoping to work out a deal with the government of President Alvaro Uribe to exchange them and several dozen other high-profile hostages for imprisoned guerrillas.

Police said Cordoba Culma participated in at least one failed car bomb attack against Cielo Gonzalez, the mayor of Neiva, the capital of Huila province.

The captured rebel also participated in the massacre of nine city council members in the Huila municipality of Rivera, and the murder of former senator Jaime Lozada Perdomo along a highway near Neiva.