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US trio mark 3 years as FARC hostages
[February 13, 2006]

US trio mark 3 years as FARC hostages

(EFE Ingles Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Bogota, Feb 13 (EFE).- Three U.S. defense contractors whose small plane went down in the jungles of southwestern Colombia completed on Monday their third year as captives of the FARC guerrillas and the unfortunate milestone was commemorated in a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy here.

Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes were taken captive when their aircraft suffered mechanical problems and crashed in a region where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, rebels were active.

Howes, the 51-year-old pilot, Gonsalves, 33, and Stansell, 39, worked for California Microwave Systems, which the U.S. Defense Department had contracted with to gather information about illicit coca and opium crops in Colombia.

The FARC acknowledged that it was holding the trio and included them on a list it prepared of 59 "exchangeable" politicians, soldiers and policemen in its custody whom it wants to trade for some 500 imprisoned guerrillas.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota on Monday in a small ceremony recalled the men, whose photographs are posted in the entrance of the diplomatic mission along with the U.S. flag.

When they took the men hostage, the rebels killed U.S. citizen Thomas Janis and Colombian army Sgt. Luis Alcides Cruz, who were on board the same plane but tried to escape when they saw the guerrillas coming.

In 2004, a video was released by the FARC showing the three men in a jungle camp dressed in camouflage uniforms. They greeted their relatives back home on the tape and appeared to be in good health. EFE


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