Colombia’s main rebel movement said on Friday that it has been holding a US veteran of the Afghan conflict for nearly a month and offered to release him to a humanitarian commission.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) identified the man as Kevin Scott Sutay and said in a statement on its Web site that it “captured” him on June 20 in the town of Retorno in the country’s southeast.
No US citizen had been reported missing in Colombia and a US embassy spokeswoman said she did not immediately have any information on the case.
FARC did not explain the circumstances of Sutay’s “capture,” but said it proved that the US has “mercenaries in the country.”
The rebels said Sutay had been in the nearby town of San Jose de Guaviare, where a Colombian military base is.
The US military has long assisted Colombia’s armed forces and at any given time has dozens of uniformed personnel, as well as civilian contractors, in the country.
Three US military contractors held by the FARC for more than six years were rescued in 2008, along with former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and a group of Colombian soldiers and police.
FARC said Sutay identified himself as a 2010-2011 veteran of the Afghan war who was an anti-mining and explosives specialist in the US Navy until March.
It said Sutay’s passport says he was born in New York City.
It published what it said was the passport number and date of issue.
It also said he arrived in Colombia on June 8 after traveling through Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.
The group said it would free Sutay as a good-faith gesture in light of peace talks going on in Cuba to end Colombia’s nearly half-century-old conflict.
Those talks began in November last year and the US government has been wholly supportive of them.
FARC asked that a commission be convened led by former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, who has in the past brokered prisoner releases, and include a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross.