U.S. News

Colombia nabs FARC rebel wanted for U.S. kidnappings

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian female guerrilla wanted in the United States for the kidnapping of three Americans and trafficking cocaine has been captured by the army near Venezuela’s border, authorities said on Saturday.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

The army said the capture of Luz Dari Conde Rubio, known as “Doris Adriana,” was a blow to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, which has had three top leaders seized or killed over the last year.

Authorities said Rubio formed part of a FARC front involved in drug smuggling and the kidnapping of U.S. contract workers Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes, who were captured in 2003 when their aircraft crashed while on an anti-drug mission.

“She has participated in drug trafficking and recently has been dedicated on the Colombian-Venezuelan frontier to finding arms, munitions and explosives,” Army commander Gen. Mario Montoya told local radio.

President Alvaro Uribe’s U.S.-backed security drive has sent troops to retake areas once under rebel control, and violence and kidnapping associated with the four-decade conflict has dropped sharply.

But the FARC is still potent in remote rural areas and is holding scores of hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and the three Americans.

Recently released videos made by the FARC show Betancourt, the three U.S. citizens and other hostages are still alive in secret jungle camps though suffering from disease and stress after years in guerrilla captivity.

The FARC began as a socialist-inspired peasant army in the 1960s, but U.S. and European officials say the rebels are now deeply engaged in Colombia’s huge cocaine trafficking trade.

Uribe and the guerrillas are deadlocked in attempts to reach a deal on exchanging 44 key hostages for jailed rebel fighters. Talks are blocked over a rebel proposal that Uribe pull troops back from an area the size of New York City in rural southern Colombia to facilitate a hostage handover.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, who helped broker the release of two FARC hostages in January, has fueled tensions with Colombia by demanding the guerrillas be recognized as legitimate insurgents and taken off terrorism lists.

Editing by Eric Beech