FARC 'capture US soldier', offer his release
Colombian FARC guerrillas said they captured a US soldier last month and are offering his release as a "gesture" toward peace with Bogota.
In a statement on their website, the leftist rebels identified their captive as Kevin Scott Sutay, and said they captured him on June 20 in the municipality of Retorno, in the southern department of Guaviare.
Although the guerrillas say they have the "right" to hold their captive "as a prisoner of war, we have taken the political decision to release him" as a goodwill gesture while peace talks are under way between the FARC and the Colombian government.
The capture shows "active participation in the field of North American military men and mercenaries in counter-insurgency operations under the guise of contractors," the statement read.
In Washington, a US State Department spokesman had no immediate comment on the issue.
The statement, dated July 19 and signed by the top FARC leadership, claims that their captive said he was in the US Navy between November 2009 and March 2013, and was deployed to Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011.
The FARC said it wants to release their captive to a team of intermediaries that will include former senator Piedad Cordoba and members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The guerrillas have released hostages to these intermediaries in the past.
Formed in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, is the country's largest guerrilla group, with an estimated 8,000 fighters.
Peace talks between the rebels and the Colombian government opened in November in Havana, in the fourth attempt since the 1980s to bring peace to the Latin American country.
The war has ravaged Colombia for fifty years and has left 600,000 dead, more than 3.7 million displaced and 15,000 missing.
During the 1990s and 2000s the FARC kidnapped scores of police, soldiers and politicians in an attempt to swap them for imprisoned comrades.
That tactic was dropped early last year as part of the peace process, and in April 2012 the FARC released their last hostages.
The FARC has held Americans in the past: between 2003 and 2008 they held three US State Department contractors -- Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell -- who were captured when their airplane was shot down.
The trio was rescued along with other hostages, including Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, in a daring military raid in July 2008.