Colombia: FARC claim taking US soldier prisoner

Colombia’s largest rebel group FARC on July 19 announced that their fighters have captured a supposedly retired US Navy seaman in the south of the country. According to a statement on the rebels’ website, they are holding New York native Kevin Scott Sutay prisoner after capturing the retired US official in the southern department of Guaviare. The FARC offered to release the hostage in the same statement. According to the rebels, the American hostage told them he served in the US Navy between November 2009 until March this year and is an Afghanistan war veteran. According to the rebel statement, the captive said he served as an anti-explosives expert in a naval engineer battalion.

According to the guerrillas, the veteran was carrying his passport, indicating he entered Colombia on June 8 after visiting Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. The FARC said he was subsequently taken prisoner in El Retorno, a municipality located in the southern Colombian jungles, on June 20. The FARC said that “in spite of the right we have to hold soldier Kevin Scott as prisoner of war, we took the political decision to release him as a gesture that falls within the environment of peace talks that are being held in Havana.”

The soldier is the first US citizen to be held by the FARC since July 2008 when three kidnapped military contractors were rescued from their FARC captors. The rebel group has since banned kidnapping for economic gain, but reserved the right to capture enemy combatants. (Univision, July 20; Colombia Reports, July 19)