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Colombia Leader Orders Rebel's Extradition

May 08, 2003|From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — For the first time, President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday ordered a leftist Colombian rebel extradited to the United States. Nelson Vargas Rueda faces murder charges in the 1999 slaying of three American activists.

Vargas is one of six members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, indicted last year in federal court in Washington in the murders of Terence Freitas, 24, of Oakland; Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, of New York; and Laheenae Gay, 39, of Pahoa, Hawaii.

They were in Colombia to help set up a school system for the 5,000-member U'wa Indian tribe.

FARC rebels kidnapped the three in February 1999 in northeastern Colombia, the indictment says. Days later, the kidnappers shot the victims. Their bodies were found across the border in Venezuela.

Facing international outrage, the FARC admitted that its fighters killed the Americans, but it blamed a rogue lower-level commander and said he would be punished internally.

The killings prompted the United States to suspend all contact with the FARC, which has been fighting a series of elected governments in this South American nation for nearly four decades.

The United States considers the FARC an international terrorist organization and has provided Colombia with millions of dollars, mostly military aid, to fight the organization and other rebel groups. The State Department considers most of the country unsafe for Americans.

The U.S. has also asked for the extradition of several other FARC rebels in connection with drug trafficking cases.

Vargas has five days to appeal the order.

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