San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Colombia arrests FARC rebel accused of helping kidnap 3 US contractors

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Colombian police captured a suspected FARC rebel accused of participating in the kidnapping of three U.S. citizens held hostage from 2003 to 2008, authorities said Saturday.

Duverney Ospina, also known as “Giovanny,” allegedly joined the FARC a decade ago and was the confidante of Hernán Velásquez, or “El Paisa,” a leader within the leftist rebel group, a police statement said.

Ospina was detained in the southern Colombian city of Florencia.

Police said there were 19 warrants and six standing convictions against Ospina for aggravated murder, kidnapping, torture, terrorism, rebellion, drug trafficking, making military weapons for private use and a jailbreak.

Authorities accuse him of helping kidnap three U.S. contractors — Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Tom Howes — on February 13, 2003, after their plane was shot down.

The FARC said the contractors were U.S. spies and sought to exchange them for captured rebels.

However, Stansell, Gonsalves and Howes were rescued on July 2, 2008 in an operation that also saw the liberation of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 11 other hostages.

Ospina also stands accused of orchestrating the killings of five council members in a town in Caqueta state in 2005 and of eight more in a town in Huila state in 2006.

Colombia has been in talks with the communist rebels in Havana since November 2012, in a push to end the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America, now in its 50th year.

Founded in 1964, the FARC today has about 8,000 fighters and is the largest of the guerrilla groups waging Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

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