- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

A federal grand jury yesterday indicted a Marxist rebel organization in Colombia and six of its members on charges of murder in the deaths of three Americans kidnapped while working with Indians in northeastern Colombia.
The indictment, handed up in U.S. District Court in Washington, signaled the Justice Department's renewed commitment since September 11 to prevent further attacks by targeting narcoterrorists, Attorney General John Ashcroft said yesterday.
Mr. Ashcroft, in announcing the indictment at an afternoon press conference, said the government brought charges against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, in an effort to hold the organization accountable for its "reign of terror" in Colombia and against U.S. citizens in that country.
"Just as we fight terrorism in the mountains of South Asia, we will fight terrorism in our own hemisphere," Mr. Ashcroft said, calling the indictment a "step toward ridding our hemisphere" of the FARC threat.
In March, three FARC members and four others were indicted on charges of conspiring to transport cocaine into the United States. Those suspects, along with the six named yesterday, remain fugitives, and it is not clear whether they will be arrested.
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.
"These three workers went to Colombia to do good but instead met with great evil," Mr. Ashcroft said. "Despite its attempts to portray itself as a band of revolutionaries or of freedom fighters, today's indictment describes the FARC as a fiercely anti-American terrorist organization."
The indictment said the FARC, designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, targeted the three Americans, conducted surveillance of their activities, abducted them at gunpoint and killed them "with multiple gunshots to the head and body."
It accused the FARC and its members of one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, three counts of murder in the first degree and one count of using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. It said the FARC considers all U.S. citizens in Colombia to be military advisers and, as a result, legitimate military targets.
The Justice Department certified that the acts of extraterritorial murder charged against the FARC were intended to "coerce, intimidate or retaliate against Americans."
"Today's indictment reminds us in no uncertain terms of where the path of terrorism ultimately leads: to lives lost and families decimated," Mr. Ashcroft said.
The six FARC members indicted yesterday were German Briceno Suarez; El Marrano, also known as Fernando and "The Pig"; Jeronimo; Gustavo Bocota Aguablanca; Nelson Vargas Rueda; and Dumar. Limited identifications were available for three of the men.
Mr. Ashcroft said he would ask the Colombian government for their extradition. Luis Alberto Moreno, the Colombian ambassador to the United States, told reporters his government would study the request but did not know whether any of the men would be detained.
The three Americans were found dead in a field just inside Venezuela on March 4, 1999, after they had been abducted in Colombia by masked FARC rebels. Colombian intelligence officials said they were killed by members of Front 45, a FARC group whose leader is Briceno Suarez, who also is known as "Grannobles."
Evidence gathered by Colombian and U.S. authorities pointed to Briceno Suarez as ordering the murders because he suspected that the three Americans were CIA agents. The authorities said rebels seized and then executed the three after finding them on lands of the 8,000-member U'wa indigenous nation.
The three Americans were helping set up a U'wa school system. Mr. Freitas was a biologist; Miss Washinawatok was a teacher; and Mrs. Gay served as the director of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International.
The indictment said that after being held for eight days, the three were tied with nylon cords, blindfolded and shot. The indictment also said that the FARC's official spokesman claimed responsibility for the murders on behalf of the group.
The FARC has long been considered the most dangerous terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1980, it has murdered 13 Americans and kidnapped more than 100 others, including three U.S. missionaries kidnapped in 1993 who are believed to be dead.
Yesterday's charges follow a separate indictment handed up in March that accused FARC leader Tomas Molina Caracas and six others, including three Brazilian nationals, of conspiring to transport cocaine to the United States.
Molina Caracas and the others 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.
The March indictment said Molina Caracas was the commander of the FARC's 16th Front and leader of that group's drug-trafficking operation. It said that between 1994 and 2001, he controlled the remote village of Barranco Minas near the Venezuelan border, where his group processed and collected cocaine from other FARC fronts and sold it to international drug traffickers.
That indictment said Molina Caracas and his co-conspirators in Barranco Minas loaded cocaine onto airliners bound for the United States.
Established in 1964 as the military wing of the Colombian Communist Party, the FARC with 16,500 members is that country's oldest, largest and best-equipped Marxist insurgency. It has been involved in bombings, murders, kidnappings, extortion and hijackings, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military and economic targets.

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