They were on board the plane that made an emergency landing in the Southern jungles of the country.
A huge military operation has been launched by the Colombian and army and US officials to rescue three CIA agents presumably captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -FARC-. The local media estimates in 2.500 the personnel taking part in the actions underway, but no positive results have been reported until now.
The Colombian Government fears this case could mean a potential damaging blow for the credibility on its hard-line policy. The US Army also fears this could have a significant impact on the public opinion on its intervention in the conflict.
After the plane landed, all the passengers were alive. However, almost as soon as the men got out the Cessna 208, FARC guerrillas surrounded them and took them prisoners. When the Colombian, Sgt Luis Alcides Cruz, and one American, James Thomas, tried to resist abduction they were shot in the head and the chest by the rebels. The remainder did as their guerrilla captors bade and disappeared in to the jungle after the rebels ransacked the plane and then torched it.
Probably, the captured ones are no longer in the region. The area where the plane fell has been controlled by FARC's for decades and they surely managed to slip through the net the security forces have tried to draw around the site of the accident.
However, specialists agree that guerrillas are not interested in killing their prisoners as they can use them to negotiate with the authorities. They know that the capture of US soldiers may have a great impact in the international community and eventually, could frustrate President Alvaro Uribe's hard line policy.
Today, the FARC custody over 60 politicians and security force officers kidnapped during the last years.
Despite the several calls Uribe made to the international community to lead a large-scale intervention to Colombia; local military sources denied on Monday the possibility of a US invasion to the country.
Notwithstanding, this is not the only crisis Uribe has to deal with. On Friday a police patrol was lured to a house in the southern city of Neiva after an anonymous tip-off. When they broke into the house it exploded killing 17 and wounding 35.
That was the first time in Colmbiaґs, and probably world's history that a rebel force uses the "House-Bomb" system to attack on urban attacks. "This is a very tough time for the country, but we must stay strong," President Uribe said. "I am very sorry about the death of Sergeant Cruz and the American killed by the FARC after their plane crash."
FARC and ELN rebel groups are fighting the offensive of the Liberal President Alvaro Uribe, who has adopted a conservative hard line to end country's 40-year civil war.
Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina
Photo (El Tiempo - Colombia): Despite the official version, the local media insists rebel forces shot the plane. The circles show the impacts of supposed rebel shooting.