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USA Offers Money for Information on Colombia Hostages-takers

Three US citizens remain captive of rebel groups. Washington may offer up to $5 million on information leading to the arrest of the militias involved in the case
The US State Department will offer five million dollars for information regarding Colombian leftist guerrillas involved in the kidnapping of three American citizens. Rewards will be soon made public in Colombia and are an attempt to speed up efforts to find the three civilian contractors employed by the Pentagon, held hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia over the past eight months.

As news agencies reported in February, rebels took the three men after their plane crashed in southern Colombia's jungle, an area controlled by the FARC. The pilot was killed, as well as other passengers, while the three kidnapped were reported in good health.

"The US government is intensifying its efforts to punish the FARC for these crimes and prevent future ones," said Brenda Greenberg, a State Department spokeswoman. "In the near future, the US Department of State will offer a reward of up to five million dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual involved in or responsible for the kidnapping of these Americans and the killing of Thomas Janis," she said.

As the US citizens are employees of the Pentagon, FARC members said at that time that they were prisoners of war and would be treated as such. Rebels say they are CIA agents with the intent to spy on them as part of the military operations carried on by Washington on Colombian territory. As POW's, the three men were listed with 21 politicians and 39 soldiers and police they want to exchange for 300 rebel prisoners.

The offer, which will be administered by the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security under its so-called "Rewards for Justice" program, builds on an existing initiative launched earlier this year by the Pentagon and the US embassy in Bogota. Under that program, a reward of up to 340,000 dollars and the possibility of a US visa were offered for information leading to the location of the hostages.

Recently, a Colombian free-lance journalist interviewed the hostages. The kidnapped men told Jorge Enrique Botero they did not want the military to try and rescue them. "There is no one in Hollywood who could rescue us from here," said Howe, the only one of the three who speaks Spanish.

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