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article imageColombian rebel jailed for 27 years over US hostage case

By AFP     Oct 24, 2014 in World

A former commander of Colombia's leftist FARC rebels was jailed for 27 years for his role in the 2003 kidnap of three US citizens held captive for five years, the US Justice Department said.

Alexander Beltran Herrera, 38, pleaded guilty in March to three counts of hostage-taking relating to the abduction of Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell.

The three men were taken prisoner by FARC fighters after their aircraft crashed deep in the Colombian jungle.

Two other men -- US national Thomas Janis and Colombian Luis Alcides Cruz -- were murdered near the crash site by the rebels.

Gonsalves, Howes and Stansell ended up being held for 1,967 days before they were finally freed during a daring 2008 rescue by Colombian forces.

US assistant attorney general John Carlin said Beltran Herrera's jailing in the United States "underscores our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world."

US attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen said the hostages had been held under "brutal conditions."

A Justice Department statement said Beltran Herrera had been responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned, using choke harnesses, chains, padlocks and wires to restrain the men.

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.

FARC are currently locked in dialogue with Colombian government negotiators attempting to broker a peace deal to end the five-decade conflict.

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