- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

A top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was sent to the United States yesterday to face murder and conspiracy charges in a massive cocaine smuggling operation that routed tons of the illicit drug each year to this country, authorities said.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson said Marxist guerrilla leader Carlos Bolas was transported by DEA agents to the United States from Suriname, where he had been arrested on immigration charges after attempting to travel in that country on a false Peruvian passport.

"This arrest takes our fight against narco-terrorism to a new level," Mr. Hutchinson said in a statement. "For the first time, we have not only indicted a member of a terrorist organization involved in drug trafficking, but we have also arrested him.

"This means that narco-terrorists will be held accountable to the justice system and to the rule of law in both the United States and Colombia," he said.

DEA agents took Bolas into custody on Tuesday after he appeared before a magistrate in Suriname.

Knowing he was wanted in the United States in a pending indictment, Surinamese authorities ordered him expelled and immediately turned him over to the DEA.

Bolas had been taken into custody by Surinamese police without incident, although they said they found two handguns, a satellite telephone and a Global Positioning System device in his apartment.

In March, Bolas was one of three major leaders of the Colombian guerrilla organization known by its Spanish acronym, FARC indicted by a federal grand jury in a drug-trafficking operation that Attorney General John Ashcroft said had helped fuel terrorist activities in Colombia and elsewhere. The FARC rebels also were accused of murder in the deaths of three Americans kidnapped while working with Indians in northeastern Colombia.

The three slain Americans were Terence Freitas, 24; Ingrid Washinawatok, 41; and Lahee'Enae Gay, 39. They were kidnapped by FARC guerrillas Feb. 25, 1999, and killed March 4, 1999.

The indictment said the FARC targeted the three Americans, conducted surveillance of their activities, abducted them at gunpoint and killed them "with multiple gunshots to the head and body."

The three Americans were helping set up a school system at the time of their deaths.

The indictment the first to name members of the rebel organization was handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington and also named Bolas, Tomas Molinas Caracas and a rebel known only as Oscar El Negro on charges of conspiring to send cocaine to the United States.

The FARC leaders were charged with conspiracy to import cocaine into this country and to manufacture and distribute cocaine in Colombia with the intent of exporting it to the United States. Molinas and El Negro are fugitives.

Mr. Hutchinson said the cocaine was bound for the United States, Suriname, Paraguay, Mexico and Spain and that illicit profits from its sale were being used, in part, to acquire weapons, cash and equipment for the FARC.

The indictment said the cocaine conspiracy began in 1994 and was centered in Barranco Minas, Colombia.

The Justice Department had requested the Colombian government to arrest the three men and extradite them to the United States.

The Bush administration has sought to increase military aid to Colombia in its ongoing fight against the FARC. Up to now, that assistance has been restricted to the war on narcotics.

The FARC is on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. The department has long considered the FARC the most dangerous terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1980, the guerrilla group has murdered 13 Americans and kidnapped more than 100 others.

The FARC controls large areas of eastern and southern Colombia, the primary coca-cultivation and cocaine-processing regions in the country.

Established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, FARC has between 9,000 and 12,000 armed Marxist insurgents. It has been involved in bombings, murders, kidnappings, extortion and hijackings.

The Washington indictments were the result of an 18-month investigation of FARC narcotics trafficking by the DEA, working with the Justice Department's Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Colombian law-enforcement authorities.

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